How to Use Cook Books as Home Decor

For years I stored my cookbooks on a shelf in my pantry.  In the last several years, I transformed my formal dining room into a “lady’s lounge.” It’s a quiet and inviting space for reading or gathering with friends. I put two large bookshelves from World Market on one of the walls and decided to display not only serving pieces, and cake pedestals, but also my cookbooks.

Cookbooks are much more than reference books, they are works of art. They make perfect coffee table books. Sometimes I like to just prop cookbook on a stand on the counter in the kitchen to inspire me with a photo of beautiful cupcakes. Or, I will stack several on the kitchen counter with a plant on top.

One trick for organizing your books is to sort them by color. I take off the book’s jacket and file the cover away if I decide to donate the book later. The spine of the book brings out the pretty colors.

Speaking of donating, here is an article on five ways to recycle cookbooks you no longer want.

I usually try to donate a book when I bring a new one to the shelf.

Here’s more inspiration from my Pinterest board on the ways you can use books to bring color and interest into a room.

Apartment Therapy
The Home Edit
Stray Dog Designs

I also use chalkboard bins to sort my books by category – Let’s Bake, French cooking, What’s for Dinner. A calligrapher friend, Megan Clegg, lettered the bins for me.

And I love this idea of putting cookbooks in a basket on the counter with a few wooden cutting boards.

The few last tricks, stack books next to a chair or sofa to create a twist on an end-table.

Or pile them on a coffee table, especially if they are all one color scheme.

Driver by Decor

The point is, use your cookbooks like art, share them with guests, and open the pages to reveal the beauty inside.

How to Make Your Home Smell Clean

As the weather gets cooler, I think we all want to treat our homes to a good cleaning from being cooped up from the summer heat.  I love to make a batch of homemade three-ingredient stovetop simmering potpourri to fill the home with the smell of clean.

Slice one lemon, add three rosemary sprigs, one teaspoon of vanilla, and enough water to cover.  I let it sit on the stove at a low simmer.*  It fills the house with the smell of the soaps you purchase at Williams-Sonoma.  I usually have all the ingredients on-hand, especially the rosemary from the garden. You could also use oranges or cloves.

And here’s a time-saver from PureWow for the upcoming holidays regarding cleaning — fake a clean home!  “A deep clean would be lovely, but you’ve got 45 minutes, woman. The most important thing you can do: Clear every counter and tabletop of clutter and hide the mess away, you can deal with that stack of mail in the hamper later.  Then give each surface a spritz of all-purpose cleaner for a little extra shine. No one will be scrutinizing the corners of your baseboards anyway.”  Try this set of Holiday scent counter sprays for your countertops — people will be so obsessed over how yummy your house smells they won’t even notice the cobwebs!

That’s a tip I need to tattoo on my arm — why do we clean before company comes when the mess is after they leave?  I am raising my hand guilty on all counts on this because I get so overwhelmed with cleaning before a party that it makes me crazy.

*Be sure to add water, as needed, and never leave the saucepan unattended.  Turn the stove off when you leave the house or go to bed.

Organizing Your Photos in Binders

This is a project I have been meaning to share for a while.  Without the help of my dear friend, podcast sidekick, and professional organizer with Nest & Transformation I would have never been able to downsize my photos and mementos from the huge cardboard boxes into seven neat and tidy binders. Elizabeth readily took the boxes and went to work.

First, she had me order personalized binders in a pretty pattern with numbers on the spine to help me know which binder to source depending on the subject. I found these custom mint and gold binders on Zazzle. She also suggested order at least two more than I needed so I have extra binders for the future (that way they will all match).

Next Elizabeth ordered plastic three-ring binder pages for the variety of sizes of photos (you can find all these suggestions in my Amazon store here):

  • Trading Card photo pages for school photos, concert/sports tickets
  • 3 1/12 x 5 photo pages
  • 4 x 6 photo pages
  • 5 x 7 photo pages
  • And 8 1/12 x 11 sheet protectors for love letters, certificates, full page recipes, playbills and travel memorabilia.

Elizabeth sorted through all my photos and memorabilia organizing them by subject – like my school photos in one book, photos of family members in one, and so on.

Then Elizabeth returned the finished binders for me to store neatly in my closet. When I want to use a photo for my blog or just enjoy it, I can easily find what I need.

And the best thing about three-ring binders is that when you find a forgotten stack, you don’t have to redo the whole album. Just insert the pages in the right spots. It feels so good to have all my photos neatly organized in one space. How easy is that?! Please reach out to Elizabeth for her help on residential and commercial organization projects. Her team will do just about anything and with a big smile!

 

A Page from My Planner: Create Themed-Days

This Forbes interview with Mike Vardy, a productivity specialist, addresses how daily theming is a great way to boost your productivity. It gives you an overarching focus for every single day.  It’s a framework, but it’s a framework with flexibility. “What day is it? This day. This day means this.” Vardy’s website Productivityist is full of all sorts of articles, tips, and resources to help you better manage your time.  His company is built with the quest to help people stop “doing” productive and start “being” productive through developing practical and tactical approaches to their work and lives.  He also has a podcast here.

In my 90-day planner (My Next 90 Days), there is a section designated for “structure” and an outline on creating my themed-days. This allows me to batch projects together, creating a weekly rhythm and gives me peace of mind.  I sat down and created mine:

Motivation Monday – start the week with the mindset to have a positive attitude and practice flexibility so I can overcome unexpected obstacles with as little stress as possible. I want to achieve the desire to profit from my week ahead, professionally, and personally.

Try it Tuesday could be lots of things – listen to a new podcast while I get ready for work, try an original recipe, try out a new machine at the gym, and so on. The goal for Tuesday is to be open to new things.

Weed Out Wednesday is dedicated to decluttering and organizing. I will set this weekly goal to drop off one new bag of things for Goodwill, or clothes to take to the resale shop, go through a junk pile, or sort through old mail I’ve stacked on my desk, organize a drawer.

Thoughtful Thursday is intentionally thanking someone with a hand-written note, and the best part it could be for someone not even expecting it. Keep a stash of pretty thank you notes in your desk, a few stamps and set aside just a few minutes every Thursday to express your gratitude.

Feel Good Friday  – yay! I finished the week! Today I get to do something that makes me happy.  Meeting a friend for a cocktail after work, going on a date-night with Mr. Bee, taking my dog for a walk.  This is my day to choose to #celebrateeveryday.

Self-Care Saturday – Whew, I made it through the week, and today I focus on putting myself into a charger for a reboot for the next week. Self-care could be napping or cleaning my house – because a clean house makes me feel productive and happy.  Or it could be “nesting” in my home – moving furniture around, decorating for a holiday, and planting flowers on my front porch.

Strategy Sunday – Prepare my weekly meal plan for dinners and lunches, get out my planner and schedule days I will go to the gym, look ahead at meetings or evening events on my calendar where I might need to adjust my free time.  Get my clothes ready for the week, or make my grocery list for Walmart pickup on Monday.

Do you see how I have planned my week, so I am intention and not spinning my wheels overlapping things or double-dipping? The spinning makes me feel out of control and overwhelmed.

To help you give this strategy a try, I am gifting you with a blank printable here. Print and create your themed-days.  Put into your planner, in a frame on your desk or your fridge.

Let me know how it works for you! #nourishtoflourish

Mrs. Twist Makes This – How to Make Your Own Cleaning Sprays

I love to clean. Now, finding the time to do it and having energy is a different story. However, once I jump in and get it done I like how my house smells.  I like the tidy order of things. It makes me feel content.

I’ve been testing some new “homemade” cleaning recipes I’m sharing with you.  These are not my own creations – I leave it to the experts to do the chemistry.  Two reasons I am attempting to make my own supplies, rather than buy them: one, I know what’s in them; and two they are very cost-effective. Plus, I really like the results!

I’ve pinned all the recipes to my Pinterest Cleaning Board here.  And, I have included them below directly from the source with links to resources.

Everyday Counter Cleaner – 

I have Quartzite countertops and clean them every day with this counter cleaner from Clean my Space.  I keep a bottle of this handy to wipe down the counters every day after we finish cooking dinner. I also use clean microfiber E-cloths I purchase from JabosAce .  They dry quickly which means they don’t get that moldy smell.  Here’s the recipe:

    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tsp dish soap (I use Dawn)
    • 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (tea tree is a great natural disinfectant.  I also like peppermint, orange, and lavender)

Using a clean spray bottle (I like these from JabosAce because you can write on the label what the spray is designated for), add the ingredients and mix the solution together.

Floor Cleaner:

From Clean my Space here is her story on how to clean different types of hardwood floors.   I use this recipe of hers to clean my engineered floors since they are not hardwood:

    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup white vinegar
    • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
    • 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Floors oftentimes look streaky and hazy after being cleaned…which shouldn’t be the case after all your effort! Working in sections, spray the mixture and wipe with a flat head microfiber mop to get rid of those streaks for good.  I use a Libman Microfiber Dustmop here.  My house smells so clean afterward, like a day spa.

Tile Floor Cleaner:

This recipe comes from One Essential Community.

    1.  Fill a 24 ounce or larger bottle add 2 cups of distilled water
    2. add 1 cup unscented liquid Castile soap
    3. add 50 drops pine essential oil and 30 drops cypress essential oil

How to use your homemade floor cleaner:

    1. add 1 gallon of hot water to mop bucket (tip: be sure to add the water first so that soap doesn’t bubble up too much)
    2. add 2 Tbsp floor cleaner to the water
    3. mix well
    4. mop floor or wash floor by hand- this one-floor cleaner works well for all types of floors (hardwood, laminate, tile, and vinyl).  It doesn’t leave any residue, so there’s no need to rinse.  This makes three cups of floor cleaner, enough for 24 moppings.  Between moppings, I use my Shark Vac Steam Mop.

Next time I will share ideas for cleaning your bathroom.  Let me know if you have homemade recipes for cleaning you’d like to share.  Happy cleaning!

My Easy Three: In the Kitchen

My Easy Three are achievable tasks you can apply to keep you and your home organized.  For September I’ve got three easy things to do in the kitchen.

First — go through your plastic storage containers.  Every few months or so, I sit down on the floor in my kitchen in front of the cabinet that stores all my plastic and glass food storage containers. I take each base and try to find its lid.  Does the lid snap on easy, does it even fit?  Is the container stained, warped? Toss or recycle the rejects.I got a set of Pyrex glass containers from Costso.  They are easy to clean and don’t melt or warp in the microwave or dishwasher.  I keep the lids snapped on and stack them in the cabinet.  Having this nice set means I only need a few plastic or disposable ones for food I might want to give away.  For those containers, I stack them inside each other and I use a divider to stand up the lids.  It keeps everything neat and organized.

Second — Do the same process from your travel cups and mugs. Do they work, are they cracked, stained, do they have matching tight fitting lids? Do you even like them?  Recycle all the ones you don’t have an attachment to. Do you really need 20 travel cups?  I have 3 travel mugs and about 8 tumblers with lids like this.  I like to drink from something with style not a faded, old Quicktrip cup.  I stack the cups and keep the lids in a long, skinny drawer divider and the straws stored upright in a cup.

Third, — Kitchen towels and dishcloths.  Go through each one. Is it faded, torn, stained?  Some can be recycled to the cleaning or car wash container in the garage.  Invest in a new matching pretty set for the fall.  I roll my towels into cylinders and keep about 20 in a drawer.  This method keeps the drawer from being over stuffed with towels.  If I bring a new towel into the drawer, I clean out the drawer again.  Here’s a pretty set for the holidays from Williams Sonoma.

What’s a constant trouble area in your home you’d like help with?  Leave a comment and I’ll try to help.  For more ideas from My Easy Three check out the Homekeeping and Organization tab under HomeStyle.

My Easy Three — Sunscreen, Flash Light Batteries and Picnic Coolers

It can be very overwhelming to tackle the day-to-day list of everything we want to accomplish, but if you can just try and do three simple tasks every day or every so often, you will accomplish so much more with ease and less frustration.  I call this “My Easy Three.” Here are some previous ideas to inspire you:

Today we are going to tackle three summer-time tasks – first Sunscreen.  My go-to is the perennially popular, PABA and paraben-free Trader Joe’s SPF 50 Spray Sunscreen to save the day—and your skin—with broad-spectrum UVA & UVB protection and skin-nourishing ingredients like aloe, Vitamin E, & coconut oil.  Their sunscreen is never tested on animals and at $5.99 this product continues to appear on the “Best of” lists for years — including Consumer Reports 2019 Best Sunscreens.

Here is a great article on the 10 Best Sunscreens of 2019, how much and how to apply them, what strength dermatologists recommend and more. The FDA is currently proposing big changes to sunscreen regulations, and only physical sunscreens with the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are recognized as generally safe right now.

Flashlight batteries.  Now is the time to replace all those flashlights with fresh batteries so you are prepared for summer storms when the power goes out and for late-night walks – the only time to take a walk with your dog because it’s so hot.  It’s good practice to change the batteries every 6 months so you can avoid corrosion and it will insure you always have a ready to use flashlight. We try to keep a flashlight in each bedroom in the house, especially in the guest bedroom so your company doesn’t have to navigate around your house in the middle of the night. Here’s a helpful article on battery safety from Consumer Report.

Picnic Coolers.  When was the last time you actually used soap and water to clean out your cooler?  Usually we are so tired from a day at the beach or lake we just dump the ice out, let it air dry and put it away until the next time.  Between seasons, take them outside hose them down, fill with hot water and a little dish soap and give them a good scrub. You might even add a splash of bleach, let it sit for a bit, then give the coolers a good rinse.  Dry them out and let them dry out in the sun.

Travel and Leisure magazine rated the top insulated cooler bags for 2019 here.  I love this Igloo cooler called the Daytriper. This sommelier-inspired tote stows a mini foldable table, a bamboo cutting board, a corkscrew, and a set of cheese knives. Inside, the cooler has two separate compartments with an adjustable divider. And the front straps are flexible, too, so you can easily tote a picnic blanket or beach towel along, too. And, it’s only $79.

Now you are summer-ready!

How to Roast Bell Peppers — The Easy Way

I really love bell peppers — red, orange and yellow being my favorite, green not so much.  Did you know that in addition to their their varied colors and taste, each differently hued bell pepper has a unique array of nutritional benefits?  Green peppers feature an abundance of chlorophyll. Yellow peppers have more of the lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids. Orange peppers have more alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene. Red peppers have more lycopene and astaxanthin, two other important carotenoids.  This summer we have orange and chocolate brown peppers growing and I can’t wait to try them.  Regardless of the color, bell peppers are a very healthy vegetable to include in your diet.  My favorite way to eat them fresh is with hummus or roasted on pizza.

Over the weekend, I did a massive purge of my refrigerator contents. I took every shelf out so there was absolutely nothing in my refrigerator.  I made a pail of vinegar and hot water with a dash of liquid dish soap and went to town.  I grossed myself out with the gunk in my fridge.  But, it’s all sparkly clean and I found myself opening the door every so often just to peak at it’s beauty.

Revelation — From this exercise, I learned that I don’t need “jars” of pickles, olives, peppers, or bags of produce anymore.  They just go to waste.  Lately, I have just been visiting the salad bar at Whole Foods and Albertson’s and buying what I need.  If I am making a pizza — I buy 10 olives.  If I need spinach, I buy a handful. If I need peppers, I am going to roast my own.

You can roast them over a flame on your stove or grill, but I like the easy method the Barefoot Contessa uses.  Watch her video here.

Ina’s Roasted Red Peppers

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.

Remove the stem from each pepper and cut them in quarters. Remove the peels and seeds and place the peppers in a bowl along with any juices that have collected. Discard the stems, peels, and seeds. Pour the oil over the peppers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

And the best part, I can put them in these French glass terrines from the Container Store!  Elevate your food by storing it in a beautiful container is my motto!

I use these in my pantry, too, which you can see featured on the Container Store website showing how I use glass jars and the multi-purpose bin in my pantry.  #containyourself.

What’s one thing you can cut back on buying that can help you save money and refrigerator space?  Please share!

How to Use Pinterest for Weekly Meal Planning

Since January I have been weekly meal planning.  It’s been a very effective tool to keep me on track with mindful eating not only with dinner, but planning my breakfast and lunch meals as well.  Knowing what you will be eating in advance increases the likelihood you will make healthier choices.  If you think about how many times you have left work, tired from a full day and say “what am I going to fix for dinner?”  If you don’t have a plan you will likely pull into fast food and spend the money and calories on food that really wasn’t that tasty or healthy.  Did you know the average American spends $2,625 per year on restaurants (Motley Fool) and wastes around $525 annually tossing groceries in the trash from lack of planning (USA Today)?

There are many techniques for meal planning.  You can make your own journal, you can print the recipes every week and some cookbook authors have their own meal planners  like Skinnytaste .

I like using Pinterest.  It’s free and convenient.  I can meal plan anywhere without having to write anything down.  Here’s the bonus:  Not only do I create my  Weekly Meal Plan from recipes I’ve found on Pinterest, but I can also add recipes from cookbooks I have at home. So, everything is saved to one centralized location.  No photocopying recipes.  Plus, Pinterest has really evolved with allowing users to upload just about anything you can find online.  Love that recipe you saw posted on Facebook?  Love getting your recipes from the daily newspaper?  You can even save links directly from Instagram to Pinterest.

Each Saturday, I look through my Pinterest recipes and my own cookbooks to plan at least three meals for the week.  The other four days we will eat leftovers,  go out to eat at least one night a week, or if we both have evening committments we will just eat a sandwich.

This week was spring break.  Miss Bee is home from school so I planned a menu I knew she would eat.  I also planned to watch a movie for my graduate school class and I wanted to prepare Indian Food to accompany the theme of the film.  I found recipes for Samosas, Hummus, Naan, Indian Butter Chicken, Butternut Squash Lasagna, and Honey Siracha Salmon.  All these recipes are here on my March 11 Weekly Meal Plan board on Pinterest.

When I create my shopping list, I click on each recipe on my Pinterest board and record the ingredients I need to shop for.  Since I use Shipt to do my shopping for me I record the ingredients I need directly into my Shipt shopping cart.

Each week, I create a brand new board with that week’s date.  I’ve also planned my recipes for next week March 18 (you can check those out here).

When it’s time to prepare the meal, I just pull up my Pinterest board, access the recipe and set my device on the kitchen counter to follow the recipe.  No cookbooks to search through or papers to fumble.

Are there recipes in a hardcopy cookbook you love  or maybe a hand-written recipe?  Here are the steps to upload your own recipes to your Pinterest board.

  1.  First, you need a Pinterest account.  It’s free and easy. Just go to www.Pinterest.com.
  2. Now your Pinterest page won’t look like mine because I have had my account for about ten years and it’s full of content.  You will have a blank page.  First, you want to create a board.   Think of ‘boards’ as bulletin boards for each topic of your interest.  See the gray box with the red circle.  Click on that circle and give your board a name, then click on create.  Now you have a board to pin recipes to.

If you want to add your own recipes, not found on Pinterest, this next step shows you how to take your personal recipes and upload them to your newly created menu board.

3. Take screen shots with your phone of the pages of the cookbook or hand-written recipes you want to load on your pinterest board.  Then go to the next step.

4. See the arrow in the upper right hand corner of my Pinterest home page, that little red circle with the plus sign – that’s how you create pins. When you click on it a drop down menu will pop up and you will click on “create pin”

I have added arrows and text with numbers 1-3 on the steps. Your screen will not have all of theses arrows and instructions.

Step 1. What is the name of your pin?  More than likely it’s the name of your recipe.  Let’s say it’s Southern Living meatloaf, well then that’s what you will title it.

Step 2. Click on the gray box and upload your screen shot of the recipe.  Your phone gallery will pop up and click on the photo you want to upload.  It will now show up here.

Step 3.  You must tell Pinterest where you want to save the photo.  Since you created the Board ‘Weekly Meal Plan March 18’, click on the down arrow and scroll until you find that board’s title and select it (if you are new to Pinterest you won’t have many boards to choose from).

Step 4.  Click on the red “SAVE” button at the top of the screen.  You have now successfully saved your pin!

I hope this helps give you inspiration to start menu planning and create a system that works for you to make it happen.  Be sure to check back and let me know how it’s going!

My Easy Three for January: Emails, linen closet, medicine cabinet and Marie Kondo

I haven’t done a My Easy Three post in a long time, but it’s time to get back to sharing three simple things you can try each month to feel like you’ve accomplished something.  By breaking it down into “just three”things it’s doable and achievable – not overwhelming.

One:  Emails – Clear the Clutter.  Do you have a stockpile of unread emails like from stores you don’t really shop or did one time to get the discount?  Do you want to start the new year sticking to a budget and don’t want the temptation to buy something?  Introducing — UNSUBSCRIBE!  Don’t just delete, because it will be back again tomorrow and you will just feel like you are on a hamster wheel.

I took about 30 minutes one day going through this process.  It might take a few times to unsubscribe until they get the message, but be persistent.  This activity can easily be done while you are waiting for an appointment, in the carpool line, or drinking your morning coffee.  If you don’t already have inbox folders designated for family members, coupons, photos, important correspondence, for example, set those up.  Then move all the emails from your current inbox into folders.  You should probably have no more than ten emails at one time in your inbox.  If it needs action leave it there, otherwise, it needs to be deleted or put into a folder.  You defeat the point with having 50,100 or 300 emails at one time.  How can you easily find something amidst that clutter?  Think of it has pieces of paper on your desk.  Once you’ve cleared the clutter, try to spend time each day purging, moving and minimizing your inbox clutter.

Two:  Clear out the linen closet, cabinet and drawer.  January is a great time to take advantage of what has been traditionally called a “white sale”  Fun fact:  In 1878, John Wanamaker of Philadelphia department store fame decreed January to be the time for a “White sale.” Bed linens, which were available in white only, were sold at a discount. This was done to increase sales for these items at a time of the year when sales were normally slow.

For this activity, go through all your towels (bath and kitchen), sheets, blankets, comforters and quilts.  Are they stained, torn or worn?  You know who could use them — animal shelters!   Have you stopped using a comforter or quilt because it’s out of style or the wrong color, then give it to a homeless shelter.  Give to someone else what once gave you joy, then it doesn’t feel like such a waste.  Go through your inventory of bath and hand towels and washcloths — do you have too many of one thing, are they random colors and you’d rather just narrow it down to two, then donate the standouts.  Sort everything in its proper place either in stacks or in baskets and if it’s not clear, then label them.  Want inspiration?  Click here for 20 Beautifully Organized Linen Closets like this one!

Three:  Clear out the medicine cabinet and prepare for flu and cold season!  Our home wasn’t built with medicine cabinets, so we use storage bins with snap off lids I bought at Dollar General.  They easily stack and I label them to distinguish between prescription, over the counter, and first aid medicines.  Physically touch each bottle or tube.  Check the expiration date.  Most medicine loses it’s potentcy and can actually be toxic past its expiration date, so be sure to error on the side of caution.  Wipe out the shelves so they are clean and free from goop.  Most drug stores are running good sales right now to prepare people for the cough and cold season.  Here’s a list from Real Simple on Medicine Cabinet Essentials.  I keep a small first aid kit in my powder room.  If guests need a bandaid or headache medicine they can help themselves to supplies on their own.

Bonus Thing:  Please watch Marie Kondo’s Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  Her mission is to clear the clutter and spark joy — my kinda gal!  Her show is really inspiring.  There are a few rituals she strongly believes in to help ground her clients and steer them toward appreciating the process.   There’s always tears, frustration, yelling and then boom the realization.  You will leave each episode with at least one great idea to apply in your own home (like the proper way to fold a fitted sheet!).  You can watch the trailer here.

Go forth, organize, declutter and #seekjoy!