Lifehacks: 5 Tips for Staying Organized.

Lifehacks: 5 Tips for Staying OrganizedSo last week, I told you what you already knew: I am not good at keeping my living space organized. So I turned to my mom with where to start, 5 things to do when organizing doesn’t come naturally. You can be sure that I am taking her advice or trying to. I wish I was more like her. This week I just wanted to follow up because I also have this problem: I organize and clean and before I know, things are back to the old standard. How to maintain? Here are Lifehacks: 5 Tips for Staying Organized with some massive help from my mom:

1. A Catch-All Basket

This is great if you have an upstairs to set on the stairs or to put some place in the living area of your single level home or apartment (like me). Throughout the day, or when you come home from work, items that need putting away go in the basket. At the end of the day, you do a kind of backwards grocery store shopping, taking your basket and putting the items inside of it away where they belong. Then you start over the next day.

This helps keeps all those misplaced or unplaced items in one place instead of randomly all over the place. It overwhelms me to see it around my place and it also makes it seem like there is more to do than there actually is. By putting everything in one place, it’s not only hidden if people stop by, but it takes five minutes to put everything back in its place.

2. Have a Place for Your Things When You Come Home

Hooks are my go to for my purse and for my jacket. My keys always go in the same place. This is a system my mom implemented for me (I’m a total adult, swear) and it keeps me from throwing everything on my couch (something I am prone to do).

If you’re prone to do something that creates a mess, consider a system that stops you from doing that. Maybe you throw all your mail on your kitchen counter. Find a container to place it in. Or I don’t know, ask my mom what to do.

3. Keep a List of Things You Need

Whether it is on the fridge or on a chalkboard keep an ongoing list. Here is where my mama blew me away: if it’s a chalkboard, take a picture on your phone and save the trees (she’s brilliant, I tell ya). I’m going to have to get her a byline here or something.

How am I supposed to remember that I am out of toilet paper and stevia? I remember one when I am in the bathroom and the other when I am making coffee–two very separate times. A list to the rescue which keeps me organized and the house (apartment) running smoothly.

4. When You Come Home, Put Your Clothes and Jewelry Away

I feel like she wrote this one exactly for me. This is definitely where I struggle. But mom says whether it is hanging up a dress to wear again or putting it in the laundry just freaking do it! Also, if you take off your earrings or bracelets or watch, put those away too.

Like I mentioned before, these things tend to end up on the couch and then suddenly I can’t sit on it and it takes me 40 minutes to do what I could do in 60 seconds every day. Also maybe I wouldn’t be scrambling and screeching where is my black dress to myself. Just a guess though.

5. Don’t Let Anything Sit

More wisdom from mama: when the garbage needs to be taken out, do it. Not when you feel like it. Go through the mail everyday. Don’t let it sit. Do the laundry once a week, not when the pile resembles Mount Everest. Wash dishes when you make a mess. Load the dishwasher. Run it when it’s full.

Bonus Tip from both of Us: Get some Clorox Wipes and use them throughout the week. I live for these wipes. I introduced them to my friend, Lis, in SF and they are life changing. They can work on all surfaces and as my mom says “a little spit and polish in between major cleans.”

Any other tips? Thank my mom for me.

(I’m linking up with Darci, Christina, Natasha, April, KarliAmy.)five on friday


Anything that helps you get organized in the first place?

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Wild Things and the Mean Reds.

breakfastattiffanysLet me tell you a secret. Sometimes I am afraid to write here which is odd because that is why I started this blog. Because I am a writer. But sometimes I get scared because I am in process and being in process in front of others is scary (there is no promise of a happy ending), because that process includes other people I would prefer not to hurt, because sharing yourself with the world (or whoever reads this blog) is hard. And in my fear sometimes I post other things: about travel or room reveals you may find on Pinterest. I like these things because creativity is part of who I am. Still, I realized fear was pushing my writing out.

Maybe it seems like I am unafraid when I am writing about this thing that I let happen to me or about strong opinion about something. But anytime I am writing and press schedule, I worry. I still worry about this post and the ones that followed. Not because I am ashamed of what happened but I am still waiting for someone to scream and yell and threaten me. I am still waiting for someone to say: that is not what happened, whether they were there or not. The thing is, it hurts when someone tells you that isn’t what happened when it comes to something that has changed your life and maybe your being too. Even if they know nothing about it, it feels like they are shredding parts of you and you don’t exactly have extra parts of yourself to give away for destruction.

Am I making sense? Okay, nonetheless here I go, taking a deep breath and sharing what I can about myself and my life.

Here’s the thing: when I experienced my first heartbreak around fifteen (and I am not talking romantic, I’m talking earth shattering, the-way-you-look-at-the-world-shifting heartbreak) I swore I would never let anyone hurt me again. I mourned and grieved. I looked at people differently. Still, I was young. When I experienced my next heartbreak at twenty, I was older and this time I made a vow: never, ever again.

In Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (the book, not the movie), Holly advises,  “Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell…[Doc] was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky” (73). Though the book and the movie are very different, the character says something similar in the movie.

When I was twenty, everyone appeared to me to be a wild thing. There were very few people who I thought of as “domesticated.” Now I am older and I realize (as I wrote last week) that everyone is a wild thing if this is the definition of one: everyone leaves, in one way or another. And so now, having realized this year, when before I pushed away the wild ones and clung to the very few domesticated things, I realize that to never love  a wild thing (which is everyone) is to never love at all.

You can see the conundrum.

I read a post on Momastery the other day called Pain is not a Mistake: “We are all so afraid of pain. We think it’s our job to avoid it. Whatever it takes to avoid it. But we shouldn’t be afraid of pain, we should be afraid of our fear of pain. Because all these things we do to avoid the pain hurt us much more than the pain would have…Pain is not a sign that you’ve taken a wrong turn or that you’re doing life wrong. It’s not a signal that you need a different life or partner or body or home or personality. Pain is not a hot potato to pass on to the next person or generation. Pain is not a mistake to fix. Pain is just a sign that a lesson is coming. Discomfort is purposeful: it is there to teach you what you need to know so you can become who you were meant to be. Pain is just a traveling professor. When pain knocks on the door—wise ones breathe deep and say: ‘Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.'”

In Traveling Mercies, taped on the wall of her office, Anne Lammot has this passage:Untitled-3

She then says, “I understood that failure is surely one of these strange angels” (143). Failure as an angel is a whole other blog post for my perfectionist tendencies. But on this day, in April of 2015, I wonder if another one of those angels is pain.

Earlier in the book, Lamott tells this story of a man who used to work with the Dali Lama. The story is about things breaking down. And maybe that is part of what pain is. I am not as wise as Lamott but the man says:Untitled-39(107).

Maybe something big and lovely is trying to get itself born.

His grace is sufficient for me.

I’ve hidden myself, from the wild things, and pain, and also these big and lovely things trying to get born. I’ve had the Mean Reds as Holly Golightly describes them in the book (and also in the movie), “…the Blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the Mean Reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is…” (39).

I’ve been holed up with the Mean Reds for awhile.

It’s time to step out into the world–to break and to feel pain but to live, to love wild things and stare at the sky.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You,” Psalm 56:3.
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Travel Tips: Packing + A Printable Checklist.

Travel Tips: Packing + A Printable ChecklistWhenever I travel, I have two traditions. First, I call or text my dad and tell him when my flight is and ask him when I should leave for the airport. The thing is, I know what time he will say every time. There is no algorithm. But it’s tradition. After years of living on my own and asking him, he finally asked me why I did it. Tradition, I proclaimed.

The second thing I do is call my mother, after I have packed, and ask my mom to run through a checklist. Yes, I am an adult. Or I am pretending to be. Unlike the call to my dad, my mom usually reminds me of things I have forgotten. Do you have deodorant, she asks. Undies? Sometimes it’s socks. Or shampoo and conditioner. I never forget the same thing. Once I forgot pajamas. And a lot of the time, I wake up the night before and scribble things down that I think I have forgotten. Needless to say, I sleep so well that night before.

So I finally made an all encompassing list (and one for you too; see the link below). And when I was finished, I ran it past my mom because she is the Packing Princess. Yes, it is tailored to my needs but I also tried to make it more general (For example, I don’t wear glasses and contacts anymore. Lasik was the best thing I ever did). I also tried to make it between seasons and left plenty of room for you to add your own items. Anything you don’t need simply cross out. I went back and forth with my mom: I left her idea of a travel umbrella but told her I wasn’t going to put down a travel poncho (in her defense, there have been several vacations where we felt like we were in the rainforest).

Also note that if you are traveling internationally, you’ll need adapters for your technology. And I always find it best to have euros before I leave because of the exchange rate.

Click here for your packing list, already set up for you to print out in black and white or color.Travel Tips: Packing + A Printable Checklist 1

All I can say is that I will definitely be using this on my upcoming trips and I hope you will too. If you have suggestions, please let me know. I really enjoyed making something I know I will use and hopefully you will too.

Buon Viaggio!

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Nonna’s Chicken Soup.

Nonna's Chicken soupFor my entire life, Nonna’s Chicken Soup has been a comfort to me. Whether I was sick or sick at heart, her soup has seen me through it. The thing is, like most of the things Nonna makes, you won’t ever catch me ordering them anywhere else. When you’re used to the best, it’s hard to stomach anything less than that. I just realized that sounded condescending. I just mean, I know if I order Chicken Noodle Soup somewhere other than Nonna’s house, I am going to be disappointed.

She makes it with pastina which are tiny pasta balls about the size of quinoa. When I am avoiding gluten for health purposes, I actually switch out the pastina for quinoa but if you’re trying this and don’t have issues with gluten, please use pastina and not some noodle and then thank Nonna who is the best.

For a long time, I was intimidated by this recipe because I assumed you had to put a whole chicken in a pot and there was this one time when I had to stick my hand inside a chicken and I didn’t want to repeat it. But no. Nonna has simplified it and made it easy. Not only that but this soup yields too meals. After making the soup, the chicken makes an incredible chicken salad.

Oh, Nonna. You’re simply the best.

This recipe is in her own words. I promised you that.

Chicken Soup + Bonus Chicken Salad

Use at least two pieces of chicken. You can buy a package of chicken breasts. Usually they are a nice size, if the package has three breasts, use three, but,you can also use chicken legs and thighs.
None of the chicken pieces need to be boneless. Sctually with the bones in, makes the soup a little more tasty.

Fill the pot about 2 inches from the top with water
Rinse chicken pieces under cold water
Add chicken pieces to water in pot

After your water comes to a boil you will probably start seeing, for a lack of a better word, scum. With a large tablespoon start skimming the scum off the top of the water and discard in a coffee cup. As it continues to boil, more scum will develop. Keep skimming the scum until most of it is gone.

While the water in pot is heating and coming to a boil, start cleaning your vegetables, or you can clean and cut your veggies before you even start anything else.

Clean one onion
Rinse two to three stalks of celery
Peel and rinse three to four carrots
Cut onion in half
Cut rinsed celery into three to four inch lengths, throwing away about 1/2 inch off each end
Peel and cut carrots into three to four inch lengths, throwing away about 1/2 inch off each end

Side note: If you would like to eat the celery and carrots in your broth, cut in smaller pieces, if you just want the broth, then cut in larger pieces.

After you have cleaned most of the scum off the water, add all of your vegetables.
If you have any Italian parsley, chopped finely, add a small handful to water

Just a side note: If you buy a bunch of parsley, you can wash the whole bunch, dry out the moisture by wrapping in Scott towel for a little while, then cut off long stems, chop the entire bunch, (if you have a small blender you can chop the parsley in there) then you can use whatever amount you need, and freeze the rest in a small container, or even a small plastic baggie. You will be able to use the frozen parsley in other recipes, not only soup.

I like my broth to have a little color. You can do this or not. But if you want, you can either a buy a very small can of Contadina or other brand name tomato sauce and use about two or so tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Or, buy a really red, ripe tomato and cut if in quarters and add to the broth with your other vegetables.

Add a little garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the pot, leaving the cover slightly on an angle, so your soup doesn’t boil over unto your stove.
Cook about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

One last thing, after you add chicken, veggies and seasonings,  by the way don’t skip on the salt, although make sure you taste after you stir pot to see how it tastes.   ADD enough water so that it is about 1/2 inch from the top of the pot.  This will give you more broth in the end. Cook on a simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Check water level every so often to see if it needs a little more water.

Adding the Pastina:

There are two different ways you can do it.   After you strain your soup and you only have the broth, or the broth and some cut up veggies, you will put your broth in a pot on the stove and put pastina or any time of very small noodles, orzo, etc. and cook the pastina in your broth  until the pastina is tender to the bite.   The second way is cook the pastina, small noodles, etc.  in boiling water, test to  see if they are cooked,  drain and then  add to your broth.   Sometimes you lose some of the broth while you are trying to cook the pastina.  So, if you are wanting pastina in all of your broth, cook it in the broth.  If you are wanting only a portion of the broth, cook the pastina in a separate pot of boiling water.   Of course, you will use the right amount of pastina to the amount of broth you have.  If your only going to make soup for today and tomorrow, you would add less pastina.   If you are going to use all the broth you cooked, more pastina is needed.   A small handful of pastina per serving is sufficent.  Remember you can freeze the broth with or without the pastina in it, in small containers to fit your needs.

When serving your soup you have the option to drain the chicken and veggies and serve only the broth: or you can eat the veggies with your soup, then you would not strain the veggies from the broth, it is what you like.

You can also take your chicken, if you can eat it, and pull meat of bones after the pieces of cooled, and add to soup mixture.

If you don’t add to soup you can always take the chicken meat off bones, and use for chicken salad. Buy the way the white meat from the breasts is best.

Chicken Salad: Cut-up chicken, half a stalk of celery chopped, 1/4 of an onion chopped, add about 1Tablespoon of NO FAT Mayonnaise, Some people like a little chopped up walnuts or red grapes. The chicken salad should be a taste to your liking.

So now you’ve met Nonna. I usually take her recipes and simplify them as best I can but I have never made this on my own so I am going with her on this. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Buon Appetito!
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DIY Mani: lasts 10 days, no gel, no damaged nails.

DIY ManiFirst, I know it is spring and this dark color doesn’t scream April. But I finally was able to watch Nashville and Rayna James inspired me. Now let’s get to it. The DIY Mani which lasts 10 days, no gel, no damaged nails:

I’ve gone through phases with nails. I got acrylics once in high school because everyone had them but they were way too much upkeep and I think I filled them only once. They destroyed my nails. The only time I had someone give me a true manicure was for a special occasion, a dance, or a wedding because frankly they lasted about three days and who wants to pay for that.

I tried gel for quite some time in San Francisco because it was kind of a rule that your nails had to be on point. Sure they lasted but I worried about that UV light. It was only on my hands but don’t hands show age the quickest? And besides that, by the fifth gel, my nails were so thin, it hurt to have them done and the gel didn’t last. I was out of there.

When it came to painting my own nails, I was often frustrated–again with how long it lasted and for the life of me I could not get them to look as if they were professionally done. Until the product that changed it all (and by the way, this is not sponsored and this is not about one product…just telling you a story). It was Seche Vite. So my nails did look amazing but I still had that issue of them lasting.

I’m proud to say I’ve invented a system that gives me and others (they were skeptical but came back with good news) a manicure that lasted through washing dishes, taking care of a toddler, typing all day, and much more. (I know, it’s Nobel Peace Prize worthy.)

For the record, this is not a gel manicure. The only downside is that this takes a full day. Don’t worry, you don’t sit and wait for them to dry for that whole time. Two things are important–using extremely thin coats of nail polish and letting each coat dry completely. So let’s get to it.

Ever notice no matter how long you let things dry, your nails smudge? Try it my way. I’ve linked the products I use. The essential one is Seche Vite. (By the way, they are affiliate links which help support this blog at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support as always!)

1. I don’t use a base coat. I know. Horrible. But I need everything to be as thin as possible because the Seche Vite top coat (which makes the mani look professional) is thick. DIY Mani 12. Take your color–in this case, Essie’s Sole Mate. Painting your nails, use the thinnest strokes possible. You should be able to see the nail through this coat basically. Let it dry for ten minutes. Then go about your day. You don’t need to be extra careful. It may even chip a bit (but it shouldn’t chip much because it is so thinly coated).

The thing I’ve learned is that even though you think this coat is dry, you need it completely attached to your nail. I am not a professional but I have tested it and I have had mommy friends test it. You will be shocked to see how much longer it lasts if you try it this way. I realized professionals don’t do it this way but I also know that a regular non-gel mani doesn’t last as long as this one.

3. After at least six hours (honestly, I like to let it dry over night), paint on a very thin second coat. If it needs a third coat, follow steps two and three again. It should only require a third coat if you’re using a dark color like I was but again, these coats need to be thin. DIY Mani 2
4. Wait several hours again, and paint on the top coat–Seche Vite (the quick dry version). This dries in minutes and you’re good to go. You’ll notice it’s thick.

If you’ve painted the other coats too thick, the overall effect will be so thick that the mani won’t last. It will just peel off. DIY Mani 3

5. The next night, before you go to bed, using a different top coat, a thin one, and paint that on top of everything. You’ll do this every night for this mani. It takes less than ten minutes including drying time. I like Essie’s No Chips Ahead

This is after five days:DIY Mani 4Writing it out, it seems like a big undertaking. But it’s not. I go about my life in between coats and I’m not delicate about it either. If I have an event, I just start a day or two ahead of the event. But I prefer this than having to sit and wait for them to dry completely coat after coat. That can take up two hours. Who has time for that? I don’t even have the patience for that if I am sitting around gabbing with girlfriends. And they smudge anyway. If you add up the time this takes, it’s far less than that and there is no smudging (I’d estimate under 30 minutes over 24-36 hours).

I’d love to hear if you try this! Do you have any tricks?
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