Saturday, January 26, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - January 26 - Feb 1, 2013

Not sure if I mentioned it last week, but I was looking for meal plannings apps for my IPhone and IPad. I found one called "Meal Board". It had good reviews but like with many things, reviews are subjective and not always indicative of a quality product.

Although there are built in recipes, they are limited in selection, however you are able to sync to various online recipe sites to add more. There is also the option to build your own recipes; adding detailed recipe information helps to build the grocery list for your menus. It also allows for a pantry inventory which was one of the biggest selling features for me. If you use the grocery list builder and the inventory feature, it works off one another to increase and decrease your inventory. The app does transfer from phone to pad (I've purchased a couple apps that only allow for partial versions on the device not used for the purchase) however there isn't an export feature. Menus and grocery lists can be emailed but this will not update the inventory if you do not "check" off the grocery list items on the device. There is also an option to print out your monthly (or weekly) menu plan.

I haven't also been able to sync my phone and my ipad so I have (so far) manually entered the menus on each device. I'm sure this can be done (as there is a 'sync with cloud' option but it keeps telling me I don't have an account) and when I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Saturday: Nachos
Sunday: Pizza (my brother and his family may be coming for dinner)
Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs
Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday: Bacon, Eggs and tatertots
Thursday: Fettuccine Alfredo
 Friday: Easy Hot wings, Coyote fritters and veggies and dip

Sharing the menu with:
Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday
Erin Branscom's Menu Monday

Thanks for checking out my menu and seeing what's for dinner at our house!

Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup FRESH Parmesan cheese (grated or shredded)

In a medium saucepan, melt butter slowly, add cream as butter begins to melt. Once melted, add salt (to taste) and grated cheese. Continuing stirring mixture until cheese melts. Add a few grains of pepper. Serve over hot, drained fettuccine.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Organizing Revolution: Week Four - Family Room!

I had it in my calendar; all ready and set to organize my son's play area. It is a small space that is between the design studio and my husband's office. We finally finished the hand-me-down shelving unit (you can see the base of it here) and it just needed a few more door handles and it is already populated with toys.

Given my recent health challenges, I decided against completing the toys this week. I'm sad but happy that I'm not exhausted, sore and regretting doing something I knew would be too much for me to handle.

Instead I decided to show the "media" area in our family room. The rest of the room is furniture and with a minimal amount of horizontal surfaces, it remains clutter free (assuming TroubleMaker picks up all his toys before bed - hence the Hot Wheels race track in these pictures).

When I met my husband, he had over 1000 records stored in his basement... He also had 500+ compact discs. In the 14 years we've been together, that number has grown dangerously close to 1000. Thankfully, he sold the records years ago, although in retrospect, I would have loved to keep some of his favourites to use as art.

None the less, I needed to devise a storage solution for all those CD's! We needed to minimize the amount of floor space used so my decision was to use vertical space and employ glass fronted units to create a lighter environment. Our family room is in our basement and is windowless (as you may be able to tell from the photos). They are all alphabetized and cataloged . It makes finding what you want a snap and having the inventory is purposeful for insurance purposes and so I can find out what my husband doesn't have when his birthday or Christmas rolls around!

As for our television and support equipment (DVD player, cable box), I wanted it up off the floor and wall mount was the only option when we (finally) upgraded to a flat panel unit.

I also wanted to create some "display" shelving to allow for a small number of the CD's to be out in the open. Being music is a huge part of our lives, I wanted to use the media wall as a focal point and centre piece to the space.

The music area was also relocated last week to accommodate our new exercise equipment. The storage bench (extra toy storage) doubles as the piano bench. The dog and cat toys have a place out in the open again in a specially decorated basket Brennan made at bible school two summers ago.

All our media is tidy, stored behind glass and works as a design feature in the space. When guests enter the room, they are always amazed and impressed by our huge music collection and the wall mounted TV! Having a storage solution that works is one of the keys to the room's organizational success! Thanks for stopping by and checking out our family room organization!

Ask Anna

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - January 19-25

Hello and welcome back... I'm climbing back on board the meal planning bandwagon as I know (as I've experienced this before) that NOT meal planning leaves my house in chaos!

Saturday: Taco Salad (finally used these that I bought last year - great results!)
Sunday: At my MIL's    
Monday: Chicken nuggets and fries
Tuesday Sweet and Sour Pork stir fry (serve with plain rice)
Wednesday: Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups  
Thursday: Beef Stew
Friday: Chicken Caesar Wraps

I have to admit that I bought the taco salad pans thinking they were a great idea... When I actually got the pans, I thought "What a waste of $20" (I'm Canadian, everything costs more here). I did use them for our dinner Saturday and was pleasantly surprised. I had to drape our tortillas on the OUTSIDE of the pan and then inverted them on a tea cup (I wanted them big, putting them inside would have resulted in tiny little bowls). I dipped the 10" tortillas in a  mix of olive oil, water and a dash of salt before putting them on the pans. I baked for 15 minutes at about 375F.  I have made them before by draping them over an clean tin can and it worked well too.

I'm also going to trying a new app for meal planning... Meal Board - it is apparently a menu planner, pantry inventory system and grocery list generator all in one. I have high hopes - it's not an expensive app but I'm a little dubious of such things. My husband's "day job" is as a programmer and although he and I have spoken numerous times about him designing me a program like that, it's time consuming and a lot of work (for him) - probably around 120 hours so since his charge out rate is much higher than the $3 for the app, I'll give it a go! I'll let you know what I think in a future MPM post.

Linking up with the Org Junkie! Happy meal planning and thank you for dropping in.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Organizing Revolution: Week Three - Closets!

This week for the challenge, we were assigned the daunting task of organizing a closet. Daunting? Maybe not... But I did have a closet that has not been touched since we moved in 8.5 years ago - save for opening the doors to stuff more junk in!

Spare bedrooms closet

Top right side

Top left side
I have to admit I was a bit surprised at what I found when I  tackled this closet. Of course I knew I hadn't looked after this room much since we moved in; honestly, I thought it would be an easy, tackle quickly kind of project. Although it, in reality, didn't take me long, I was a bit surprised at all the stuff I found in the closet.

There were more things, of course, but just yesterday I was looking for Camilla - not because I wanted her per se, but because I wanted the chef's hat that I wore as part of the costume. Ta da! What good luck! The dino pans are from the awesome idea I had to let seven children (aged 3 to 9) do a dinosaur dig in my living room. It was awesome (seriously, all the kids were so nervous about it, only my own tossed sand around the place)!




The dresser was repurposed for our son's dresser (his broke) and I got rid of tons of stuff! Including all the crap I'd been hanging onto since leaving my job in 2010! TroubleMaker has his chef's hat, Camilla will be reunited with Gonzo and I'm going to sell the portable fridge in our garage sale this spring.

I've also cleared up a whole closet so my husband has more storage for his photography equipment - so everyone's happy! Thanks for reading and sharing in my organizing journey!

Ask Anna

Don't forgot to go vote for your favourite! Voting starts Friday - mine is listed under "Brennan's Mom (Barefoot Deliberations)!  

Can you believe this!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Organizing Revolution: Week Two - The Kitchen!

Spice Cupboard: January 2012 (It was much, much worse in 2010)
If I never did another organizing challenge, I'm absolutely all right with that because I have accomplished the one thing I've been trying to do since I started this blog in 2010. Although I achieved some success with this space early in 2012, it wasn't finished and it has been a thorn in my side for a year.

But not anymore. Now, it is exactly how I first envisioned it.

I spent a lot of time trying to find the right solution and implemented a few but when it came to the "E" in the Org Junkie's PROCESS, the evaluation never help up. It didn't work for me. When something doesn't work, I quickly abandon it.

During a trip to Ikea, I found spice jars that would fit in my kitchen drawer (idea #4 for how to organize my spices) so I bought a 12 (what would fit in the drawer). They sat for a very, very long time as I couldn't afford to give up the drawer space. During an impromptu stop at a big box home store, I found a tiered organizer and for the $4 price tag, I thought it couldn't hurt my cause to try it. In February 2012, I finally implemented it and I like it. Unfortunately, I had more spices than jars so I had to expand the system. Unfortunately, it never happened and the small success I had in 2012 turned into another abandoned mess.

After ordering another tiered storage unit in the fall, this challenge was the push I needed.

Complete satisfaction!
I can access all the jars (and have 3 to spare) and I've inventoried what I have (I discovered duplicates and triplicates of onion powder, parsley and pepper) and will tack it to the inside door. I've used large mason jars to store bulk spices (salt, cinnamon, bouillon) and contained my cake decorating supplies in a basket. I bought a small container for storing packages (mixes, sauces) and contained the "not often used" spices in containers on the top shelf. I love, love, love the cupboard now that it's finally finished. I'm so proud of what I accomplished and think it is fabulous, maintainable, functional and so organized! I still have a few labels to make for my jars as my label maker ran out of labels!!! We ordered them two days ago and they still haven't arrived - thankfully, scotch tape and a Sharpie makes a quick label (and I won't forget what I put in what jar).

I also organized the counter below the spice cupboard (which I've also done before) but after running out of time last year, I finally finished the storage device I decided to use to wrangle my cook books. I took the advice I've seen many times (most recently this post on Bowl Full of Lemons) and kept only the cookbooks I use frequently. The binder tucked behind my cookbook storage solution houses the recipes we use frequently.

Counter - before

Counter - after

I've learned that changes, now matter how small, result in positive feelings and lead to future and continued success. I'm pleased to joining the Organizing Revolution! Congratulations to all the successes I've seen looking through the others participating.

Ask Anna

Want to know more or want to vote for my entry? Check out the Organizing Revolution and come voting time Friday, January 11, click on #92 (that's me)!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We-Design Day! Trending 2013

It's been a very long time since I've written a We-Design day post. So much has been going on personally, that it just doesn't seem like I've had time to dedicate to my love of design. With a new year, I'd like to try writing about design and sharing my passions.

Today, I'd like to talk trends. Each year, see trends evolve. Often it starts in runway fashion (colours, styles, textures) and it morphs into interior design. The fluidity of fashion has changed how interior design can be approached. Decorating a house in a certain style used to be the norm. Due to the cost of large furniture pieces, typically, decorating would be done and left in that same style for years (and years and years).

That's not a certainty anymore! A large swing towards mixing styles, purchasing "big ticket" pieces that are timeless and applying the use of colour, changeable accessories and accents pieces to aid in the feel of having a trendy interior without committing to the same style for 20 years.

So what's hot for 2013? Some of the same things that were big in 2012.

Chevron patterns continues to be used, in art, wall and floor coverings and textiles. It is a simple idea to incorporate into any space but use it sparingly; too much of a good thing can overwhelm and easily dominate a space. There are lots of easy, quick and inexpensive DIY projects across the internet that will allow you to incorporate this trend easily and in a disposable fashion.

The use of ombre patterns is also gaining in popularity.  It's a simple technique that again is covered at length in DIY projects on the Internet. A simple sewing project would be to get some fabric dye, wet some plain cotton fabric and dip in the dye, allowing it to creep up the fabric. Once dry, a few simple seams would allow you to make a quick and easy slip cover for a preformed pillow.

The hot finish for 2013 is dulled down bronzes, golds and brass. From light fixtures to furniture to door knobs, it looks like rich, opulent gold is becoming king! I'm personally not keen on this finish but simply because it is trendy doesn't mean you have to jump on the bandwagon.

How do you feel about animal motifs? Owls, foxes and squirrels seem to be very fashionable and very trendy this year. Like with all good things, less is more! An owl, a fox or a squirrel will be plenty! Other birds are big too - small, dainty accessories (perhaps in burnished gold).

Top colour choice? Emerald! I love green and emerald (and variations there of) are fantastic way to add visual interest and punch to any space.

Remember, design is part style but it's also part personal taste. You should be the biggest influence in your design choices!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - January 7, 2013

Ahhh... A new year and a new plan (since I neglected to plan anything last week). I'm hoping to stay better on track this year with meal planning - both for health reasons and for budget reasons. I want us (as a family) to eat healthier and I need to be more cognizant of planning to get more vegetables on the table. Often, in a rush to get a meal on the table, I grab frozen peas, beans or corn - or worse, nothing.

This week is not a shining example of exemplary meal planning.

Saturday Tacos

Sunday Turkey sandwiches (yum - cooked a breast roast today and made the best gravy ever)

Monday Gramma's Mac and Cheese

Tuesday Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday Chicken stir fry with fried rice

Thursday Spaghetti with meatballs

Friday Mom's Crockpot Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

I'm looking for great vegetable recipes... I've gone through all my vegetarian recipes and have a good start but always looking for tested until perfect to add to my collection (it was much easier to get all the veggies we needed when I was a vegetarian).

Linking up with Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Organizing Revolution: Week One - Office Space

Here I am, once again, joining an organizing challenge. Why? Because I am "organizing challenged". I did The Organizing Junkie's 52 Week Challenge two years ago and had many, many successes and have kept *some* of the areas organized still and can attest to the fact that the things I learned that year have certainly have influenced the way I do things now. I use Laura's "PROCESS" often and am a container junkie as I found the only way I stand a chance is to limit myself and create visual boundaries by using a specific container for a specific function. When I started this, I sat down with a coffee and sketched out my zones (I'm a visual person and I like to see everything) and reviewed the PROCESS and see how I'd apply it to this job.

A little background on the space that now constitutes my office... Back in July 2011, we started a renovation - this included opening up what had been my husband's office onto the family room. We moved his office into what had been my sewing room (really, it was a giant junk dump that "happened" to have my sewing machines in it). There are pictures of the reno in this post. Also, in preparation for the move, I did my (then) sewing room) as part of the 52 Weeks of Organizing - that post can be checked out here.

The space has been fully functional since late 2011. Early in the fall, we installed new cabinetry as what I had was not working. Many things were purged then and it was tidied but never really "done" and I was always doing a "stuff shuffle". Enter Christmas and all the crafts we did left the space a DISASTER and much less inspirational than a room referred to as the "Design Studio" should be.

This challenge was perfect for me - I work well with guidance, an audience, pressure and deadlines. Without further adieu, here is my space! My design studio - interior design, craft/sewing and projects office!

After - looking in from family room

Before - looking in from family room
Before - looking out to family room

After - looking out to family room


This is the cutting station but not much cutting was getting done. I'd moved a smaller mat to my portable table since I couldn't find the one on the raised table... Now there is plenty of room and I know where all my cutters are! Plus all my rulers and adhesives are back where they are supposed to be!

This has been my workstation for my "real" job since September when I went back to work a few hours a week. The computer is OLD and SLOW... So we got a new computer. It sat in the box until I decided to start this challenge - that's when my husband decided we should finally transfer everything. Soon, the dinosaur computer will be extinct and this desk will be really neat and tidy. I've also learned that my husband needs a kick in the behind in order to get his filing done. The big pile of papers in the "before" is his delinquent filing... It's now gone from the desk!


I really like that I can sit at machine again... And I've got space to open the other door on the sewing cabinet (that's where my serger sits). It's SO tidy! Once I can start feeling my arm again, I hope to sew something awesome!
The upright storage units are excellent. They are inexpensive, have lots of room but keep me confined (remember I said I need to be limited in how much space I can have?). They create clear and defined boundaries. I sew and have hundreds of metres of fabric - most of which is hung on pants hangers and lives in the tall cabinet on the left. It's awesome and tidy and I can find anything when I need it.

PhotobucketThe table also rotates around the room - as an extra return on the computer station, craft table and as pictured here, my design space! I can't believe I once again have room to lay out my samples and catalogs!
Sharing in all the awesomeness of the super Organizing Revolution! It's like these lovely bloggers knows there are lots of "organizing challenged" people out in the world! They should really wear capes!

Ask Anna

PS Please ignore the open ceiling tiles. We are waiting to get the electrical completed and inspected so I can't close up the ceiling. It's an eyesore but now that the space is positively beaming with tidy, organized awesomeness, I hardly even notice them!

PSS I CAN'T believe I forgot to make the office reference to the movie "Office Space"! I had it all in my head before I wrote this and then, like so many things in my head these days, I forgot. So yeah, "Office Space"; a way cool movie.


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