How to fix a drawstring

I can’t be the only person who has draw strings stealthily remove themselves from pants and hoodies, right? I think this is a fairly common issue, and I may have found a better way to fix it. I tied one end of the drawstring securely to a crochet hook, then shoved the crochet hook, back end first, all the way through the pants.

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It only took a few minutes! If you aren’t the type of person that has crochet hooks laying around, 1) Why AREN’T you? Maybe you should reevaluate your life choices. 2) If this happens to you frequently enough, having a crochet hook around might not be a bad idea. They don’t cost much, and if you have a friend that crochets they might have an extra one laying around. Or you could take up crochet! It’s great! You can turn your entire checking account into yarn in the blink of an eye! But crocheting is also far less stabby than other needle arts, so keep that in mind.

September 27, 2013. Tags: , , . House Stuff. Leave a comment.

How to make less mess in the kitchen

I cook a lot, even now in my giant state of gestation. I’m actually cooking extra and freezing it for later, but that’s a tale for another post. I hate making a mess in the kitchen every single day, or at all, so I have developed a few tips to reduce the prevalence of mess in the kitchen.

If you’re chopping veggies, have all your materials at hand: here we have 3 bean salad on the left, compost in the back center, veggie sticks on the right, and cutting board front and center. All of this takes place directly next to the sink so I can easily wash veggies.

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Any time you’re about to start cooking, have the dishwasher empty and ready for each dirty dish as you’re done with it. If you hand wash things, have your drying rack empty, and a sink-full of hot, soapy water ready to go. I often finish some of the dishes while something is simmering on the stove.

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Chop veggies for multiple meals at once. You can also shred cheese or cook extra meat for more than one meal at a time. My products for the day shown here: veggies for shepherd’s pie and veggie sticks to eat at work in the containers on the left, 3 bean salad center, and veggies for Hubby on the right. These all lasted most of the week. Obviously you don’t want to cut things up TOO far in advance, but a few days at a time is fine.

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Anything you can clean as you go makes clean up MUCH easier. When you’re done with the olive oil, put it away. Wipe down each section of counter as you’re done with it. Put dirty dishes in the dirty dish receptacle. Throw trash away. Prevent messes in the first place by covering spattery foods, and by making sure pots don’t boil over. There’s usually lots of down-time in the kitchen where you have to be in there to make sure things aren’t exploding, or scorching, so you might as well put it to good use. By the time you’re done cooking, most of the kitchen can be back to normal, if you keep on top of it during cooking. At the very least, if you end up with half the mess already dealt with, there’s that much less to do at the end of the evening. I know that for me seeing a destroyed kitchen is much more daunting than a HALF destroyed one.

Do you have any mess-reducing tips? Leave them in the comments, and maybe I’ll acknowledge your presence!

September 23, 2013. Tags: , , , . Cooking. 2 comments.

Money Basics Part 2: Prioritizing

Now that you know where your money is going, it’s important to decide where it SHOULD be going. If you’ve been forced to reduce your spending due to a sudden loss of income, you can still focus on priorities to get you through this tough time. Having a long-term goal in sight when you’re digging for change to buy groceries can be helpful; I promise, I’ve been there. I was out of work for a few months (not long at all compared to what some people are enduring) and we were living on credit cards until I could find something new. My goal was to charge as little as possible, so we’d have a smaller burden to escape from once I was employed again. If you’ve decided to reduce your spending for your own reasons, it still helps to have your priorities in mind when temptation strikes.

If you have a spouse or significant other you share expenses with, you should start with an honest, open discussion about what your priorities are as a team. Two cart horses pulling in opposite directions aren’t going to get anywhere. If you’re completely dedicated to saving, and your SO is shopping or eating out, it’s going to create strife in the relationship. Having agreed-upon goals set up ahead of time will prevent issues (hopefully; I mean, I’m no therapist). Maybe you want to cut your household spending by 50%, and this horrifies your partner. Explaining why this is a goal for you, for example “I’d like us to take that trip to France we’ve always talked about”, can help them see your point of view. At the same time, you may have to compromise, and agree to reduce spending by only 20% for now, or maybe have an allowance of “fun money” you’re not allowed to cut.

So what are your goals? They don’t have to be lofty, long-term ones; in fact it often helps to have small, achievable goals, especially at first. “We need ‘x’ amount in savings for emergencies”, “Paying a car off early”, “Saving for a weekend trip to the beach”, “Saving the down-payment on a house” can all be valid goals. Having a long-term goal as well, like “Retire by 60”, “Pay off the house”, “Have zero credit card debt”, “Trip to New Zealand” can keep you moving in the right direction, while small goals keep up your motivation along the way.

Hubby and I have our goals set up like dominoes; as we complete one, we move on to the next. 1) Have ‘x’ amount in savings to cover emergencies. 2) Pay off his car early (we already met our goal of paying mine off early). 3) Save up to re-side the house. 4) Save up to build out our second-story porch we’ve always wanted. As we achieve a goal, we high-five and do a little dance, and get started on the next one. It makes it so much easier for me to pass by Taco Bell by saying “Nope, we’re saving for goal #1”. Of course, we indulge sometimes, but not nearly as much as we did before I started watching the budget.

Your goals will be unique to you and your situation, although there are some that are fairly universal. Seeing progress on your goals (even if that progress is simply not going further into debt), will help motivate you to reduce your spending. Keep track of where you are on your goals, and how much you’re saving. Those concrete numbers will help keep your goals firm in your mind, and reduce back-sliding. Everyone slips up now and then, though. Don’t beat yourself up, or throw in the towel if you order pizza, or buy something you didn’t plan to. Use it as a learning moment for yourself, and try to keep on your path in the future.

September 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. 5 comments.

Glut Sauce with Quinoa

I absolutely love tomato glut sauce. It’s so fresh flavored, even right out of the freezer. My old buddy Kornberg loves it also, and has been a bit more creative with it than I am. So I’m stealing this from her.

Glut sauce is, of course, amazing with pasta; my favorite is ravioli. At the same time, I don’t always want all those carbs on my thighs. Solution? Quinoa! If you’ve been living under a rock, quinoa is a tiny seed that was one of those trendy super foods a few years ago. It’s delicious and healthy, and cooks quickly. You can buy it at most grocery stores, and even Costco. It’s a staple in my pantry because it’s so easy to throw in a pot, then throw some stuff on top, and BLAM! Dinner! If you have some glut sauce already made, dinner is even easier!

For this particular dish, I browned some ground turkey, then threw glut sauce one top and cooked it for awhile. I cooked the quinoa at the same time, then did this:


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A little Parmesan on top, and it was fantastic! You can also use ground beef (browned and drained), or lentils (thoroughly cooked). I hate writing these blog posts after the food is already gone. It was so good, I want it in my mouth again, right now!

September 15, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

Closet Clean Out

Despite my best intentions, it seems like some part of the house always becomes the dumping ground for things that have no official home, like the island of misfit toys. My closet had become one of those places. Closets are extremely vulnerable to this phenomenon for a variety of reasons: they can be dark, awkward spaces; their only purpose is to hold crap; and until you need to get something out, it’s easy to just keep cramming things in on top. These issues, plus my hoarding of craft supplies led to the mess you see here:

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Yes, that’s a Millenium Falcon on the floor.

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You can see I do label boxes, so I know what’s in there, and I attempted to utilize wall space by hanging a purse on the left.
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Those are some of my dresses on the right. They didn’t have a real place to hang, and would come out wrinkled constantly.

Now, AFTER:

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Not a whole lot different, except there’s a dresser in here now!

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My work clothes hang just the right height above the dresser, and I added a vintage fruit hanging basket (far left) for belts, scarves, bras, and other weird pieces of clothing that defy normal storage methods.

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The amount of clothes has been reduced a BUNCH.  I thought very seriously about whether or not I would ever wear something. Even if it was cute, was it comfortable? Did I like how it fit me? There were several items that didn’t fit this criteria, and were culled. Dresses now have their own long space to the right of the shoe bag.

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Craft supplies got further reduced, and some specific projects were moved elsewhere (a story for another day). My laundry basket has a home, that is not the middle of the floor! And it also doubles as a cat bed for our cranky cat. The projects I’m working on now will hopefully reduce the needed storage even further, but that of course takes time.

Hubby also had a RUTHLESS clean out of his closet (completely his idea!). His was so crammed with clothes we were running out of hangers. He filled THREE garbage bags to go to Goodwill! He had a variety of old t-shirts and free shirts he’d accumulated that just didn’t fit him comfortably or well, and now they’re GONE. I am so proud! He’s down to maybe 20 t-shirts, 5 dress shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and 3 pairs of shorts. I wish I could reduce mine that much, but while I’m pregnant is not the time to make clothing decisions. His closet is sparse and amazing!

Want to clean out your closet? Here are a couple tips:

1) It helps to be in the mood, if you can (if you have a deadline, or will use “I’m not in the mood” as an excuse to procrastinate, then no, this is not for you). I like to watch Hoarders or Fight Club before or during a big cleaning job, as motivation.

2) If one big purge won’t work for you (for time, medical, or attention reasons), keep an empty box or bag in or near your closet. Every time you try something on, or just see something that you know for sure you no longer want, throw it in the box. When the box if full, take it to Goodwill and start a new one. This is also a good method for things you aren’t sure about: put them in the box, and if you haven’t needed them in the time it took to fill the box, you probably don’t need them. I often forget what I even put in the box in the first place, which shows how little I cared about it to start with.

3) If you want to do a big purge, plan your whole day around it. Get up, have a good solid breakfast, and have beverages and caffeine available in your work area. Have all your supplies, like a trash can, donation boxes, sharpees, and masking tape easily at hand. Have music, movies, or podcasts ready to motivate you.

4) Don’t just rip everything out of the closet; down that road, madness lies. For me, it’s much easier to work a section at a time, for instance, take down all the boxes on the top shelf and sort through them first, then put back what’s staying so it’s out of your way. That way if you get to a point where you can’t continue, due to an emergency, or because cleaning is giving you rage fits, you are never far from a stopping point that won’t leave your whole room destroyed.

5) Start with the worst things first, when you have the most motivation. If you can sort through your sticker collection from Elementary school that you’ve been ignoring for a DECADE, you can sort through anything. Having the part you dread the most over with is hugely motivating, also.

6) Be realistic. You haven’t worn that shirt in 5 years, do you really love it that much? Even if you do, if it’s shrunk, or stained, or faded, do you love the shirt now, or how it used to be? If you found this item at the store, would you buy it? Do you actually like it, or do you have negative emotions attached to it? “It was so expensive!” or “Aunt Sally gave it to me”, or “I never lost enough weight to fit back into it” are all negative reasons to keep things. You’re only reliving bad memories every time you see it. Purge it, and those demons with it! Save yourself the emotional energy for something important!

7) If you can’t decide which clothes to get rid of, move all your clothes (if possible) to one location, say one half of the closet. As you wear, wash, and put away clothes over the next few months, put them in the other half of the closet. After awhile, you’ll see which ones you actually wear, and which you can safely purge.

8) Truly get RID of things. Once your old crap is in a box and you’ve decided you don’t want it anymore, seriously get rid of it. “But Aunt Sally might need a new lamp!” you say. Well, Aunt Sally lives 4 states away, and you haven’t seen her in 4 years. Aunt Sally will never know what she’s missing, and I doubt she’s sitting at home in the dark, pining for you to spend more money on gas than the lamp ever cost to drive it over to her. Give it to a thrift store, and someone who needs the lamp will acquire the lamp. That’s the whole point of the store’s existence. (Family heirlooms obviously get special treatment).

9) Store the stuff you need to access most in the easiest to reach place, or store things near where they’ll be used.

10) Make sure things are easy to retrieve AND put away. If you have to dig through a stack of boxes to dig out what you need, you’ll never put it away properly, then it will just become clutter again.

I still have a ways to go, but no house is cleaned in a day. Be mindful of every item in your house. Do you have it there because it makes you happy, or because it’s just always been there? Being honest with yourself will be a huge help.

September 12, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . House Stuff. 2 comments.