Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – September 21st-27th

The key words for this week are organization and trying new things.  What new things did you try this week?

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I have always had a soft spot for small kitchen appliances.  They are so much fun for me!

I bought this Bella Pastry Tart Maker on clearance at Target earlier this summer, but I hadn’t gotten around to try it out just yet.  I envisioned making not only homemade pop-tarts for breakfast but also homemade hot pockets for lunch.  So I grabbed some refrigerated roll-out pie crust and decided to finally give this thing a try.

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So here is my first attempt at a homemade hot pocket for lunch using some smoked turkey breast and a slice of deli cheese.  Yum!  Haylee liked it, but Holden said he liked regular hot pockets better.  We could change it up with a different brand of pie crust or some different fillings, but I thought it looked pretty good for this first time around.

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Haylee and Hayden said they want to try pop-tarts next.  I have some tart cherry jam I bought from the local farmer’s market, so I’ll bet that would be a great filling for our first attempt at making those.

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Over the weekend, I read a great online article with 50 ideas for home organization.  I’m so glad I did!  I gained some wonderful inspiration and began taking notes about the projects I thought I’d like to try.  The supplies for a lot of the projects were available at Dollar Tree.  I set about making some of the items right away.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

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#1  This idea pictured above is my new menu board!  I bought a black magnetic board that came with a chalk marker for $5 at Dollar Tree deals.  I wrote “menu” on it.  Then I bought two packs of colorful magnetic clips at Dollar Tree for $1/pack.  I couldn’t find the right size of magnetic pencil cups, so I bought 2 packs of jewelry gift boxes from Dollar Tree for $1/pack, glued the lids on, and then cut out one side.  I had a roll of self-adhesive magnetic strips at home that I use for crafts, so I cut some of that and attached it to the back of the little boxes.  Voila!  After searching unsuccessfully all over town for magnetic locker caddies, I had improvised my own little magnetic cups in just the right size.  Problem solved!  Usually, you can buy them pre-made at Dollar Tree, but only during back-to-school time.  Then I sat down with a pack of colorful sticky notes and wrote all the meals we like to eat on the front sides (categorized by color) and their required ingredients on the back sides.  I laminated all of them and trimmed them and dropped them all in the bottom box.  So now each weekend, I sit down and pull out 7 meals from the bottom box, flip them over so I can make a quick shopping list, and then make one grocery store run to get what I need for the week.  Then I clip them in place for each day of the week.  As I make the meals, I remove the tag and drop it in the top box, which contains the meals I’ve recently made.  This way, we keep all of our meals in a steady rotation without too many repeats, and I can make sure I select a variety of meals from the different colored categories so I can make sure we are eating fish at least once a week and are not eating too much red meat.  The kids like picking out their favorites and being involved in the planning, and I like being able to ensure I have what I need in one trip and that we’re eating a variety of meals.  It takes the “what’s for dinner” question out of my head for the whole week, and that’s wonderful.  I just look at the board around mid-day, and then I know the answer!  I really love this menu board, and I highly recommend it to take the doldrums out of your meal planning.  It’s a brilliant idea!

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#2  The next project shown above is a lovely pen/marker/pencil organizer that I made for my daughter’s bedroom.  We had a little portable caddy on her desk for all the pens and markers and such, but they were always spilling out, and Haylee had a hard time keeping them sorted and organized.  I really wanted to make it easier for her to keep her desk surface cleared so she can set her laptop there whenever she wants, so I jumped on this great project idea.  I bought a 3-ft. metal mounting strip from Wal-mart for about $7.  I had my husband mount it underneath Haylee’s bedroom window beside her desk.  Then I bought a package of metal s-hooks from there for $1, and Haylee picked out these cute little metal buckets with handles for $1 each from Wal-mart’s remaining school supplies.  They can be written on with a dry-erase marker, so she can even label them if she wants to.  I hung up the buckets and then sorted her many coloring/drawing implements into the buckets for her.  Voila!  Now her colored pencils, crayons, and markers of all kinds are all very organized and tidy, and they aren’t taking up any space on her desk at all.  She can grab a bucket when she’s working on something and easily put it back when she’s done, keeping all the supplies sorted out neatly.  She loves this!

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#3  The last little project I did this week was a way to organize my measuring spoons.  Up to this point, I had kept them in a shallow kitchen drawer, along with my measuring cups.  It seemed like the 1/8 teaspoon was always getting buried somewhere in the drawer.  Here was my solution!  I went to Dollar Tree and bought a package of self-adhesive plastic hooks and spaced them out inside one of my kitchen cabinet doors beside my stove.  Then I sorted my various sizes of measuring spoons on the hooks in order of size, and now they are handy and at my fingertips whenever I need them.  Yay!  No more digging through that drawer.  I’m glad for that!  I like it so much that I want to go back and get some more hooks so I can sort my measuring cups on the other cabinet door beside my stove.  I can’t wait!

#4  I don’t have a picture of this one, but I bought a long garment bag from target for about $5 and hung it in my hallway coat closet.  I tucked all of my rolls of wrapping paper inside and zipped it up.  Now they are clean and safe from damage (rather than in my attic where I can only get them down once a year), and I can access them any time I need to.  They are taking up very little space this way.  I love it!  I had them in one of those tall plastic storage tubs before, but it had gotten knocked over and cracked, and it wasn’t tall enough for the longest rolls of paper, so I was left stashing it all over the place anyway.  This way, it’s all together in one place. 

There are a couple of other organizational projects I’d like to try that I think are terrific ideas, but I haven’t located just the right supplies yet.  When I do, I’ll set to work and talk about them with you here.  I love being organized!

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By the end of the week, I’d decided to try my hand at making my own California Crunch Rolls (American sushi) at home.  My kids love them, and although I’ve splurged and bought them a couple of times from Kroger, it works out to $1 per piece, and that’s a bit much for my budget.  My 6-year is especially fond of them and begs to go to Kroger all the time just for the sushi samples!  So after watching some YouTube videos on how to make them at home and and what tools were needed, I set out to gather up the necessary supplies and give it a whirl.

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I went to a local grocery store called GMart, which is an Asian market, and I purchased a sushi knife for $4, a flexible rice paddle for $1, a bamboo mat for $2, and a pack of seaweed sheets for $2.  That covered the essential tools.  Then I shopped for an avocado ($1), a large tub of sushi rice ($6), an English cucumber ($1.29), a pack of imitation crab sticks ($5), a tub of French fried onions ($1), and a small tub of spicy mayo from the Kroger sushi bar ($2).  That was all I needed, and I can make a LOT of sushi with those ingredients!  The only things I’ll have to buy more of each time are the spicy mayo and the vegetables.  I froze the rest of the crab sticks for next time.  I also went to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and splurged on a set of 3 freezable serving plates for $17 to keep the sushi cold until it’s consumed.  I have a terrible fear of food poisoning with this kind of thing…call me crazy!  I had it once in my very early 20’s and never again!

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So how do they look?  I can tell you that it was absolutely delicious and so easy to make with the right tools on hand.  My kids and my non-sushi-eating husband enjoyed them immensely, and we’ll definitely be having them again and again!  Now that I have what I need, I know I can make this for dinner within my budget, so we can have it as often as we like. 

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I hope you all had a great week!  I felt like mine was pretty productive, and I ended it with packing for a little extended weekend trip to the State Fair with my family.  I’ll tell you all about that next week!  We’re very excited and looking forward to it since we haven’t been able to take a vacation since Hayden started attending public school last year.  I let his school know he’ll be missing two days next week, and they were very understanding.  I just hope he doesn’t get too far behind with his work.  He has several AP classes this year, and his workload is quite a bit heavier than last year.  Enjoy your weekend!