Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maximizing Space

When I was organizing our junk drawer the other day (you can read about that here), I was once again struck by the resourcefulness of the carpenter who installed our kitchen.

I shared with you our kitchen remodel and some of the things that we did to maximize space.  There were also a couple of little things that our carpenter suggested that I thought I'd share with you.  These are fairly easy (I don't think that I have the skills to make it look as finished as he did) steps that can be taken today without a full remodel but will truly make these spaces easier to use.

The first area was our junk drawer.  The drawer is actually underneath our cantilevered breakfast counter.  I love the breakfast bar but was very disappointed to see how much of the drawer was not usable.  My biggest concern was the all the stuff we put in the drawer would get shoved to the back where we would never be able to get it at.

When I shared my concern, I was told "not to worry" because he would take care of it for us.  What he ended up doing was creating a false back for our drawer.  Using spare pieces of wood (plus the extra door from the project below) he created this drawer stop.  The unfinished pieces keep the finished front from sliding back allowing us a much smaller but more usable drawer.

As you can see, when the piece is in place you can't even tell that isn't the original drawer size!

The other thing that the carpenter did was open up one of our cabinets.  We had a similar cabinet as below in our old kitchen and found it completely unusable.  The cabinet itself was huge but the small opening made it pretty much impossible for easy access.  Unfortunately when we placed our cabinet order we found the the new cabinet was pretty much going to be the same.
When I whined to shared my concern with the carpenter I was once again told "don't worry, I'll take care of it".  He certainly did!

To solve our dilemma he cut into the cabinet, opening the door opening by about two inches.  He ordered us a new door front to cover the larger opening. He stained the freshly cut wood to match the existing finish.  The stain is not a perfect match but it's so close that you probably wouldn't even notice if you didn't know.  Plus, it's inside the cabinet so who is going to see it?

The cabinet is now big enough for me to get my mixer and food processor out without any problems!  There is additional storage to the left which isn't very convenient so I store items I use infrequently.

Moral of the story?  1) A good carpenter is worth his weight in gold.  2) It pays to speak up and express concerns to a person who has the ability to solve your problems!

You might also like:

Belle's Vanity Table
Solving the Wall Phone Dilemma
Decorating with Wall Words

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Usborne Book Giveaway

Stephanie, an Usborne Books representative, recently e-mailed me and asked if I would be interested in hosting an e-show. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved books and reading.  Fortunately I’ve passed on my love of reading to the kids and have raised a couple of voracious readers.  When my kids were little I purchased many a book from the Usborne Book Fairs at their daycare to help satisfy their appetite for books.

Since my kids are older, it had been a while since I had looked at Usborne books so I took some time to review what they had to offer.   Let me tell you, as I was perusing their website I was impressed by the wide selection of books they had.  Here are some of the things I like about Usborne books:
  •   HUGE selection of books at reasonable prices
  • Groupings by age allow you to easily shop for the special kid
  •  Lots and lots of learning books.  If there is a topic that your kid is interested in I’d be terribly surprised if Usborne didn’t carry it.
  • They support a lot of charities, from literacy programs and cancer research to local schools and daycares.  Proceeds from their Cuddle Bear book go to support the Scott Carter Foundation

As I said, the selection of books is huge but here are some of my favorites:

  • Are you buying for a kid who has a fascination with airplanes? I would recommend 100 Paper Planes to Fly with actual tear out pages for $7.99.
  • Do you have a kid who loves volcanoes?  Consider getting them a kit to make an actual volcano.  For $17.99 you can get the Volcano Kid Kit
  •  Want to teach your kid to cook?  Try out this free download from Usborne’s site for Pretty Pear Tarts.  You can find more recipes like this in the 30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat for only $9.99
  • Entertain your kids with Green Gloop, just one of the many science experiments available in Usborne 100 Science Experiments for $15.99
  • Looking to educate your budding artist on famous paintings?  I love The Usborne Book of Famous Paintings which gives a simple explanation of some of the famous paintings that have helped shaped our view of the artistic world.
  • Learn about the ancient world.  As a lover of history I find myself wanting to buy the Encyclopedia of the Ancient World just for me!  Not only can you learn about the Trojan Horse and why Julius Caesar was murdered but you can also find out even more about them since this book has a special internet link allowing your kids to delve deeper into their topic of interest.
  • Does distance separate you from your kids or grandkids?  How about recording your voice reading either Twas the Night Before Christmas or Guess How Much I Miss You.  Better yet have your kids record it for their loved ones.

Here is a little blurb from the company website.
You are invited to an Usborne Books & More eShow to explore the world of Usborne and Kane Miller books. A child's interest in reading and learning is stimulated by the lavish illustrations and informative content. There are over 1500 bright, colorful and fun titles covering touchy-feely baby books, wonderful preschool picture books, early reading books, chapter books, reference books, sticker books, activity cards and a wide range of subjects for children of all ages.

Here is the link to my eshow, it will be open until August 29th.  Since this is an eshow, I will receive hostess rewards for any books that you may decide to purchase. Are you ready for the fun stuff? Stephanie has graciously offered a $20 gift certificate for one of my readers.  There are up to five chances to win.  

Here is how to enter:
1.        Leave a comment.  Even though not required I would love for you to check out Stephanie’s site and tell me what book(s) you would order if you win.  Hint:  There is also an opportunity to win $50 worth of books available on her website.
2.       Follow me on Facebook (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
3.       Follow me on Pinterest (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
4.       Follow me on Twitter  (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
5.       Receive Wonder Woman I’m Not via e-mail (I’m sure you know the drill by now!)

Giveaway ends August 29th.

I’d like to thank Stephanie for allowing me this chance to host the eshow and get reacquainted with Usborne books.  If you are looking for an opportunity to offer a show here at Wonder Woman I’m Not you can find the details at the top of the page.  Stay tuned for the September show which will feature Lia Sophia Jewelry with Heather as the consultant.  Heather and her daughter Breanna have actually done a live show for me so I'm excited to give them the opportunity to share their products with you.

Menu Planning

The kids are back from their week in St. Louis and I have to say that I'm amazed by how messy two kids can make the house.  Keep in mind these are two older kids who should know better.  Here's a sample of what my day has been like:
  • When I woke up this morning I was greeted to a mess in the kitchen consisting of a half eaten pizza, cookies still on the cookie sheet and every baking pan that I own out on the counter. 
  • This afternoon when I walked in the door from grocery shopping I tripped over four, you heard me right, four pairs for shoes!  Shoes that are suppose to be put away when they are taken off. 
  • Just a minute ago when I walked past the bathroom I happened to notice dirty clothes on the floor from today's shower.
OK, now that I've had my little tirade about my children (which all things considered I'll keep) I'm ready to go on to menu planning.

This week we're starting to get a little bit back into the swing of school.  Cross Country started last week with the first meet this Friday.  Later this week we have orientation for Belle while Michael's classes start Friday.  

The other thing that we have going on this week is we're debating going to see a show.  Our local performing arts theater has a popular broadway play going on this week that Mike wants to see.  I've seen it twice already but Mike and the kids haven't seen it.  Tickets are pretty expensive so I'm on the fence about it.

I've pulled my linguine/chicken in an asiago cream sauce into the lineup.  It's been a while since we've had it.  I don't know about Mike and the kids but I'm looking forward to it :)  You'll also notice that I did a cupcake this weekend.  I made a carrot cupcake which is without a doubt the best carrot cake recipe you will EVER have.

Without any further ado here is my plan for the week

I'll be linking this up at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Grilled Chicken Salad

One of my favorite things (besides steak) to get when we go out for dinner is a grilled chicken salad.  It's fairly healthy (if you don't go to heavy on the goodies) and taste pretty good.

The beauty of the Grilled Chicken Salad is it's super easy to make.  Lately it's been one of my 'go-to' meals when I'm looking for something fast.  I grill up a chicken or two over the weekend which helps get this on the table after work without any problems.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Lettuce (I personally recommend the spring mix but go with what your family likes)
Cooked chicken (here is my favorite grilled chicken recipe)
Mandarin oranges
Bleu cheese crumbles (you can substitute Feta if you prefer)
Glazed pecans (non-glazed nuts can also be used)

Throw into a bowl and top with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing (my favorite is Paul Newman).  I would recommend assembling the salad and let everyone add their own dressing.  This way if the salad isn't entirely eaten it should still be good for at least a day or two.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Are you ready for one of the best cupcakes ever? This has been a family favorite for a long time but it's the first time I've made it into a cupcake.

The cupcake is very moist with a variety of flavors. Nuts are an optional addition.

World's Best Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 - 7oz bag of shredded coconut
  • 1 - 8oz can crushed pineapple packed in juice, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 340, prepare cupcake pans

Mix oil and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, beating well. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to beaten mixture.  Fold in remaining ingredients. Pour into prepared cupcake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Cupcakes should be firm to the touch.

A couple notes from the Wonder Woman I'm Not test kitchen: 

  • I would suggest baking just a couple to start so that you can finesse the time/heat before going all in
  • These cupcakes cook a little darker than typical so don't get confused by the color.  
  • The oil in these cupcakes make specialty cupcake liners oily.  My recommendation is would be to either use traditional cupcake liners or no liners, making sure to use a well greased baking tin.
  • You can leave the coconut out if you prefer but I recommend leaving it in.  The coconut helps act as a binder and doesn't contribute much flavor.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tablespoons butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vannila
1 - 1lb box confectioner's sugar

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

This recipe came from a cookbook called Great Taste No Pain.  A friend of mine has stomach problems and found some relief from following their recommendations.  This is an affiliate link

You might also like:

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake
Applesauce Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Orange Marmalade Cupcakes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Junk Drawer Organization

Anyone else have a "junk drawer" that resembles this?  It seems no matter how hard I try it's been impossible for me to keep it clean.

I like to think that I go through the drawer pretty regularly, get rid of the junk and then reorganize.  Hmmmm - is pretty regular every two years?  My fantasy was shattered when I found a ticket stub to "Dear John" dated 2010.  

Does anyone know the definition of crazy?  It's doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.  That's exactly what I do with my junk drawer.  I go through it, make everything neat and clean expecting it to stay that way.  

This time I decided to take a slightly different approach.  This time I took the 5S approach to my organization.

First step was to SORT.  Everything was taken out of the drawer and sorted.  In addition to the toolbox items pictured below, I also came across:  four flashlights, two old cell phones, 14 used inner cores from dog bags (I have to admit, those peeved me a little), three chargers/computer cords, a ruler & compass, five partially used battery containers and quite possibly a partridge in a pear tree.  No wonder I couldn't ever find anything!

Toolbox items that belong in the garage!

The second step that I took was to SHINE.  Typically shine is the third step but I like to clean the area before I start putting things back.  Cleaning the area pretty much consisted of wiping the drawer down with a wet rag.

The third step (typically the second) was to SET IN ORDER.  This is the step that always excites me.  Figuring out what didn't work and making it better.  To "set in order" I usually determine what my real problems are.  Here is what I determined:
  • Half used battery packs are thrown in the drawer.  The opened packages waste a lot of space and the batteries fall out making it difficult for me to know what batteries I really have
  • Writing utensils are thrown in the drawer getting caught in the mess.
  • Birthday candles fall out of the opened package creating waste (who wants to put a grubby candle in the cake?!?)
  • Current dog walking bags don't fit the two different holders that we have.  Loose bags were creating a lot of chaos

For me the solution was fairly simple.  I used baskets that I had bought at the Dollar Store (three for $1) to hold the batteries (eliminating the need to keep the packages) and the writing utensils.  I used zippered sandwich bags to contain the dog bags and birthday candles.  The scissors are situated between the baskets while I decided the flashlights and matches would be fine as is assuming the rest of the drawer was sustained.

The fourth step is STANDARDIZE.  Since this is our home I skip the standardize step, visitors would probably think I was nuts if I hung up standardization pictures!.  At work we take pictures of what the space should should look like every night.  I've found that having baskets so that the family knows where things should go works well for us

Finally, we'll need to SUSTAIN this change.  Overall my family is fairly good at the sustain part.  They aren't perfect so periodically I do need to go through and straighten up areas that I have 5s'd but it's usually only a straighten up versus a full blown project.

I guess the proof will be if I find a two year old movie stub next time!

Update:  A reader made me aware of a recent article she read regarding battery care so I did some checking.  According to the Rayovac and Energizer websites batteries should be stored in a cool, dry location (like a drawer but not in a refrigerator or freezer).  Ideally you would want to store the batteries in their original packaging.  If you do not store them in the original packaging you should definitely NOT store them with medal objects.  There is a risk of battery leakage or heat which could result in a fire.  If you don't store your batteries in their original packaging (which in my humble opinion needs to be improved if you want us to use the original packaging) you should make sure that the positives and negatives are all facing the same way.  Mixing them up (i.e. positive facing negative) could drain the batteries making them less effective.  Thanks Carol!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weekly Menu

This is an odd week for us, the kids left this morning for St. Louis to visit their great-grandparents.  I asked Mike this morning what he wanted on the menu, his response was "let's just eat out every night!"  I was on-board with that until he found a belated birthday present he wanted (and I had not budgeted for).  I gave him his choice, the toy or dinner out every night.  Of course he chose the toy.  Ugh - I guess I won't get away from menu planning after all.

Last week I played around with a pineapple upside down cupcake using a box cake mix.  How easy is that?  Be sure and check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Here's what we'll be eating this week.

Grilled chicken
Salad (spinach, cold chicken, glazed pecans, Craisins, bleu cheese crumbles with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing)
Pizza on the Grill
Taco Salad
Fend for yourself (I have a meeting one night)
Dinner with friends

Since the kids won't be around dinner will be pretty casual.  We're keeping it pretty simple so we'll probably just eat when we feel like it versus trying to eat at a specific time.  Hopefully the weather will be nice and we'll be able to take some evening rides on the bike.

What's on your menu for the week?

I'll be linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie