Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting the Maximum Mileage out of Your Veggies

I don't know about you,but I get bored with the same things all the time. So I try to be as creative as possible with whatever veggies I have on hand for the week in order to save money and not bore everyone to death!

Using the same veggies, you can serve:
- a veggie tray
- grilled veggies in foil using salad dressing for a marinade
- a tossed salad or dinner salad
- a salad comprised of cut-up veggies tossed in Italian, ranch, etc. dressing (no greens)
- stir fried veggies - add some meat and it's a meal
- steamed veggies.

At the beginning of the week I usually buy a veggie tray from Sam's. With such picky eaters as our foster girls, it's nice just to put the tray on the table and let everyone choose what they want. The price is so reasonable ($10), and I don't have to do the chopping!

Depending on which girls are here, I'll take veggies they like and place them in foil and drizzle Italian dressing over them. Fold up the foil into a packet and grill about 15 minutes on medium. Broccoli cooked this way was a big hit. This week while we've been off, I combined asparagus and mushrooms. Squashes, peppers, and onions are great candidates for grilling, too.

Small potatoes can be wrapped in foil and grilled for about half an hour. When my husband turns on the grill to sear the meat on high, he puts the potatoes in at the same time and then turns down the heat for the rest of the cooking time. We have also made foil packets with thinly sliced potatoes. You can just add butter and salt and pepper or mix dry onion soup with oil (the recipe is on the box). They take abut half an hour, too.

This week my veggies were carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, grape tomatoes and mushrooms. These can all be used in a tossed salad. Or made into a dinner salad if you add your choice of meat, cheese, nuts, beans, or seeds. I enjoy adding fruit, too - apple, grapes, pears, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, or berries. When the girls are here, I set the ingredients out and let everyone make their own salads according to their tastes.

One day this week I chopped cucumbers, asparagus, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, a tad of onions and tossed them with Asiago cheese salad dressing. The dressing's strong flavor was a great compliment to the mild taste of the veggies.

Stir fry is a great option when you have small amounts left of several veggies. I start with some of my Teriyaki marinade as a cooking sauce. Next I add the veggies that need to cook longer
(carrots, onions, green beans, cabbage) followed by those that need to cook less (mushrooms, peppers, brocccoli, snow peas). If I'm going to make it a meal, I add cooked meat with the second batch of veggies. Serve a plate of fruit and dinner is done!

Steamed veggies are always a stand-by. My favorite seasoning for fresh green beans is garlic salt and butter. Same with cabbage. Really brings out the flavors.

After you've tried all these variations and you still have some fresh or cooked leftover veggies that no one wants, put them in the freezer for soups in the winter. Do the same with bits of meats, rice or beans, and you have a free meal one night!

Comments? To comment on the original blog, click here if you're a subscriber.

Similar topics:

Quadruple Batch of Teriyaki Marinade
Who Invented Meatloaf Anyway?
Grill Your Entire Meal

Monday, June 29, 2009

Expert Organizing and Design Tips for Your Foyer

(Photo by Eric Roth)

I came across this article in the Boston Globe Magazine featuring tips from architects and interior specialists. I thought it contained some great organizing and design ideas. Here's the article:

"Designer Tricks for the Foyer
by Marni Elyse Katz and Deblina Chakraborty June 12, 2008

Architects and interior specialists share their secret sources, strategies for clever styling, organizing tips and other home updates you can do yourself.

Place everything. That chest of drawers just sitting there in an upstairs bedroom would make an excellent hall table, says Sudbury's Sarah Desmond. Use it as storage and switch out mittens for flip-flops as the seasons change.

Reflect on you. Supply grandeur in a small foyer without taking up much space by adding a floating shelf and a mirror, suggests HGTV.com's Taniya Nayak. She suggests hanging a Lack shelf from IKEA between 36 and 42 inches off the floor, with a mirror (she likes the selection at HomeGoods) above it.

Smarten up. Sarah Desmond suggests another way to show off your style while organizing your stuff: Repurpose useful items you have around the house. A planter you like, for example, can be an umbrella caddy, or a champagne bucket can hold mail.

Frame someone. Architect Stephen Chung pieced together an interesting portrait of his son Jet in their home's entry. He took a series of photographs of Jet, each focusing on a different area of the body, then pieced them together. You could also create a whole "person" with the knees, face, and torso of different family members, for example.

Punch up the door. Add a bright splash of color to your foyer by painting the inside of your front door, says This Old House correspondent Carole Freehauf. Or, to make a door you don't want to play up disappear, stick with a neutral color or match the walls and trim. "But if you love apple green," she says, 'why not?'"

Are you proud of some of your design or organizing tricks? Let's hear them! Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:
Your Priorities, Passions, and Gifts Create Context for Your Clutter
My Guest Blog on Creating a Mudroom
Clever Organizing Tips from Better Homes and Gardens
Finding More Bathroom Storage without Expanding Your Bathroom

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Organizing Sales

I saw that Sterilite containers are on sale at Target this week and thought I'd pass it along to you. These are the containers I use to help people downsize to smaller residences. I also use them to store Christmas/seasonal decorations and other stored items. I use the 70-quart containers which are on sale for $7.99 rather than $11.99. If you are looking for some sturdy, waterproof, bug-proof containers, these are great!

I also saw this organizer which is on sale for $9.99, which I thought was a good price.

The Container Store is having a college and travel sale as well.

Just thought you might like to know!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Paris Hilton Organizes her Closet

Thought you might like to see how Paris Hilton organizes her closets - yes she has one just for jewelry!

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Dozen Ways to Take the Stress out of Big Projects

We all have big projects we must accomplish at different points in our lives. It may be a normal part of your job or a fund-raiser for your child’s sports team or doing a home improvement project. Whatever the case, if you plan ahead, you can eliminate much of the stress that could accompany a big project. Here are a few tips:

1. Break down your project into categories and then to specific tasks in each category.

2. Estimate the time it will take do each task. Err on the side of over-estimating rather than under-estimating.

3. Add up the time it will take to complete your project so you will know how much time will need to be devoted to the project.

4. Set a deadline for the completion of your project.

5. If your project allows, delegate. Assign tasks with clear instructions and deadlines. Plan to follow-up periodically.

6. Working backwards, schedule the specific tasks/deadlines and follow-ups, allowing some extra wiggle room for unexpected delays. Plan to finish your project a couple of days ahead of schedule to reduce your stress level.

7. Know your peak energy times and schedule your tough jobs then, if possible.

8. Do big projects during big chunks of time and small ones during small scraps of time.

9. Do projects that require concentration at times when you won’t be interrupted at a place where there are few distractions. If you work in an office, consider going in during an evening or weekend when no one else is there. Make sure to take some time off during the week to compensate yourself.

10. Inform others of times when you do not want to be interrupted and when you will be available. Record this information on your voice mail. Give polite, but firm reminders when you are interrupted during your no-interruption times.

11. If necessary, go to a location away from your office or home where you are unlikely to be disturbed.

12. CELEBRATE the completion of your project!! If others are involved in your project, make sure to involve them in the celebration.

Comments? Click here to comment on the original blog post.

Similar topics:

Interesting Clutter and Organization Statistics
Reduce Your Stress - Say No
Helping Your Child Organize Large Homework Projects

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Packing for College, Round 1

If you have a child going off to college, it's not too early to think about doing a little packing. By doing some preliminary sorting and packing, it greatly reduces the stress when it's time to pack up and go to college! The following is a revised version of a blog I did a couple of years ago when one of our foster daughters was getting ready to head off to college....

Yesterday I helped one of my foster daughters pack for college. Since she is going to be around for another month, this was the first round - it took three of us about 3 1/2 hours. I asked her questions about each item, she and I sorted them into categories, and another person folded clothes and later packed the sorted items. We sorted into several categories - toss, give, store, will take but don't need it until then, and will take but will use between now and then.

Those things she tossed and gave away were cleared out of the room - it gave us more space to work. We packed in clear plastic 70 qt. containers and slipped a piece of paper down the side of each container listing the contents. This will allow her to see the list as well as what is inside.

We packed clothes and shoes she didn't need now in a couple of containers. Winter clothes were packed separately since they won't be used for a couple of months. We put school supplies in a container by itself. Another container holds extra shampoos, mouthwash, toothpaste, toilet paper (I can't believe her school doesn't provide it!!!), etc. Towels and other miscellaneous belongings went in another, and so on.

We also organized stacking drawers she will take for her dorm room - one for electronic things - camera, ipod, wires, batteries, etc. One for important papers. One for daily cosmetics/hygiene stuff. And a set of smaller drawers for little items. She'll pack her remaining items in her suitcases when it's time to go off to college.

By doing the initial packing ahead of time, she was able to get rid of a big job and have peace of mind that it's done. She can now take inventory to see if there are things she still needs to get. And she will have enough time to do it without being rushed. Her room now contains only what she will pack up to take to college, or leave behind.

If you have a child going off to college for the first time, make sure to look at the list the school sends you. Work ahead to purchase the things your child needs and to do an initial packing of his/her room. This will provide a pleasant memory for your child as he/she prepares to leave home, rather than a hectic, last-minute scramble. Going away to college is scary enough without having additional stress!

Comments? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog post.

Some other college topics:

Organizing for College - Guest Blogger Sarah Scrafford
Great info for college students, their parents, and college professors
Organizing For College - Dorm Room

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Organizing Your Herb Garden, Part 4 - Using Your Herbs for Healing

I did a series on herbs last summer and decided to add to it today. I came across this
article about the healing properties of herbs by Dr. Mao. While I do not embrace everything he stands for, I thought this article was very helpful.

"Herbs have been part of every culture and medical tradition since the earliest humans walked the earth for treatment of everything from colds to digestive issues to depression. You may be surprised to learn that the herbs you have been regularly using to infuse your food with appetizing flavors also have amazing healing abilities. They are easily grown in your own home so you can have them on hand to use whenever the urge to cook strikes you. Read on to find the healing health benefits of these commonly used herbs.

1. Rosemary
Rosemary has been used as a brain tonic in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Rosemary contains volatile oils that help stimulate brain activities and increase brain alertness. One compound it contains, cineole, has been found to enhance the ability of rat to navigate mazes. So skip the harsh coffee and spice up your energy level with rosemary. Other benefits? Rosemary also aids in digestion and perks up your immune system. Steep it as tea, use in your poultry dishes and soups--or just crush some up to fill your home with an energizing scent.

Growing tips: Rosemary needs to live in a very sunny window and may even need supplemental light. It is sensitive to overwatering so keep it on the dry side.

2. Mint
Peppermint, spearmint, and other mint-family plants are considered one of the most versatile herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Peppermint has many well-documented properties: It increases healthy gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the stomach, and alleviates gas. In a culture marked by poor diet and digestion--and the heartburn that comes with it--peppermint can be your best friend. Additionally, peppermint is rich in antioxidants that support good vision and also cleanses your liver, helping to eliminate harmful toxins from your body. Steep peppermint as a tea and drink it a half an hour after mealtimes for untroubled digestion.

Growing tips: Mint is an easy-to-grow herb that is invasive, so be sure to grow it in its own pot.

3. Oregano
When you're suffering from cold or flu, steep oregano in a pot of water and inhale the vapors, which are antibacterial, antiviral and decongesting. This immunity-enhancing herb also settles digestion and prevents bloating.

Growing tips: Oregano needs a lot of light to grow so find a window with direct light or grow out-of-doors.

4. Sage
Chinese traditional medicine has long used sage to help prevent the loss of mental function that comes with age. Sage has been found to increase oxygen to the brain cortex and to help improve concentration. Sage is easy on the digestion. Cook it up in soups and poultry dishes.

Growing tips: Sage can be a bit difficult to grow. It is very sensitive to overwatering because it is more susceptible to mildew than other herbs.

5. Chives
A member of the garlic and onion family, chives have been used throughout history for natural healing because they contain a substantial amount of vitamin C as well as essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid. In Chinese medicine they are used to clear stuffy noses, prevent bad breath, ease stomach aches, strengthen the lower back, and improve poor circulation that gives you cold hands and feet. Some serving suggestions? Chop up chives and add them to stir-fries or mix in with ground poultry to stuff ravioli or dumplings.

Growing tips: Chives are fairly easy to grow because they don't require as much light as other herbs.

6. Basil
A favorite herb in Italian cooking, basil's scent can perk up your energy level and it is filled with luteolin, a bioflavonoid that studies have shown to be the best protection of cell DNA from radiation.

Growing tips: Basil can be more difficult to grow. Your best bet is to grow it during warm, bright summer months.

7. Cilantro
Cilantro is an energy tonic that can boost your immune system and smooth out your digestion. Use it in your cooking to get its health benefits.

Growing tips: Cilantro, the name for the stems and leaves of the coriander plant, can be hard to grow. Sow the coriander seeds in a thick concentration in a shallow tray.

8. Parsley
Parsley is used in a Chinese folk remedy for cooling the liver and clearing the eyes. Parsley is packed with luteolin, and there is some evidence that this helps protect the eye from UV radiation damage and from glycation, a process in which sticky sugar molecules bind up protein, potentially damaging the retina. The age-old folk remedy recipe for vision protection is a juice blend of celery, peppermint, and Chinese parsley, made fresh daily.

Growing tips: Parsley doesn't need very much sun, but it is a slow grower, so don't expect a high yield.

Herbal Tea Recipes
Aside from use in cooking, all of the above herbs can be used to make aromatic potent teas. You may use the herbs individually or experiment with combinations. For example, to make a tea that soothes digestion and prevents bloating: Steep 1 teaspoon each of mint, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, sage and basil and in a cup of hot filtered water for five minutes. ...

Grow Your Own
To grow your own herbs, all you need is some terra cotta pots with drainage holes, high-quality organic potting soil, and a window sill that gets at least six hours of light per day. A southwestern-facing window is your best choice for good light. If this isn't possible, you can get a few clamp-on reflector lights with compact fluorescent bulbs and place them about six inches away from the plant.

Keep in mind that overwatering is the biggest mistake people make when trying to grow herbs inside. The rule of thumb is to let the herbs dry out completely, and then water. Beginning with baby plants will be less troublesome than starting from seed. With practice, you will learn the best ways to grow and care for your indoor herbal garden."

Comments? Click here to comment on the original blog post.

Other posts on herbs:

Organizing Your Herb Garden
Organizing Your Herb Garden, Part 2 - Drying Herbs
Organizing Your Herb Garden, Part 3 - Using Your Herbs
Herb Recipes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cook It Once, Serve It Twice

I'm back from the gym and feeling proud of myself for going when I didn't want to!

I'm also happy because I already have dinner covered for today. Lunch actually. While we're off, we're eating our big meal at lunch time. It really seems to work better with my appetite and energy.

I'm a morning person and am hungrier and have more energy at the beginning of the day. And my husband is enjoying the change, too. Even when I know what I'm cooking for dinner, by 4 pm I have trouble getting up the desire to cook! (Not that it matters - I have to cook anyway!)

So back to lunch. Lately I've been trying to cook extra meat one day and serving it twice. On the second day I turn it into something else - especially nice for those who don't like leftovers.

So two nights ago my husband grilled a bunch of chicken. We had leftovers yesterday, but today the chicken is going into stir-fry. Last week I marinated chicken in a Hawaiian marinade. We had the chicken one night and I created a Hawaiian salad the next night (greens, chicken, pineapple, grapes, red peppers, cucumbers, onions, sesame seeds, grated cheddar, sliced almonds). I even came up with a Hawaiian salad dressing to go with it! Yum! It was a hit with the girls.

When we grill steaks, I remove the extras before they go to the table - so we will actually have leftovers! Both chicken and steak can be turned into fried rice, stir-fry, fajitas, or wraps.

Just another way to save time in the kitchen - especially during the summer months!

Do you have similar time-saving tips? Click here to comment on the original blog if you're an email subscriber.

Other Time- and Energy-Saving Cooking Tips:

Grill Your Entire Meal
Dinner in 15 - A Grilling Twist
Quadruple Batch of Teriyaki Marinade

Monday, June 22, 2009

An Emergency Entry on Your Cell Phone

Good Morning! Hope you had a nice weekend. We are off as of last Friday around 6 pm. Over the weekend, we got the house ready for the next girls, played Settlers, had sushi, went to church,
made a list of what we want to do while we're off, talked to our dads and our children, and did some grilling, shopping, laundry, and napping.

Here's what I'm thinking about today:

An Emergency Entry on Your Cell Phone

This morning I needed to pick my husband up from the car mechanic after going to the gym. I hadn't taken my cell phone with me and was debating whether to swing by the house on the way. I decided to do it.

I got to thinking ... What if I had a car accident on the way and didn't have my cell phone? What if I were unconscious, how would they contact my husband if he were not at home or at the office? I can't remember if we put our cell phone numbers on our information when we renewed our drivers licenses. (As you can see, I have a very active and vivid imagination!)

On the outside chance someone might pick up my cell phone and try to figure out who to call, I now have an entry called "emergency numbers" with cell phone numbers for my husband, daughters and son-in-law.

I know this is a morose subject, but I have more peace of mind when I'm prepared for the unexpected. I tried to think of ways someone might abuse or misuse this entry, but I couldn't come up with anything. I don't know if it's a silly idea, but it's done. :)

What do you think? If you subscribe by email, comment by clicking here to be taken to the original blog.

Other safety topics:

Organize an Emergency Kit for Your Car
National Preparedness Month - Making a Plan
National Preparedness Month - Emergency Kit #8 - Emergency Documents

Friday, June 19, 2009

10 Ways to Double Your Time

Happy Friday! Today's our last day of girls for a bit, but we're not counting down the hours or minutes! :) Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

10 Ways to Double Your Time

Would you like to squeeze more time out of your day? Who wouldn't? Here are a few suggestions to help you do just that. Then hopefully you’ll have some more time to do what you want to do!

1. Have something with you to do for that unexpected delay, while waiting for an appointment, riding in a car/public transportation, during a child’s practice or lesson. Make phone calls, read, write cards, or prioritize your to-do list. If you want to use it as a “refill time” for yourself, bring along that book you can’t wait to finish, your favorite magazine, listen to music, or something else that refills you.

2. Make phone calls while doing mindless tasks: walking, riding in a car/public transportation, filing, decluttering your desk/another surface/a room, laundry, cleaning, ironing, unloading the dishwasher, etc. Consider getting a headset (~$20) or Bluetooth (~$70) to free your hands.

3. If you travel with colleagues, use that time intentionally for training, brainstorming, or conducting business that would otherwise take up office time.

4. If you attend meetings or conferences with a person you need to see, schedule an appointment before or after or during a break while you’re in the same location. It eliminates the extra travel time it would take if you scheduled a separate appointment.

5. Keep a list of errands you need to run. Combine those that are in the same location, rather than making several trips, wasting time and gas. If your errands are conducive to it, take along someone with whom you want to spend time.

Do mindless jobs when you can be interrupted. For example, don’t do something that requires your concentration while your child is doing homework and may need help. Instead, use that time to prepare dinner, do laundry, prepare for tomorrow, etc.

Listen to the news while getting ready in the morning, while driving, or preparing dinner.

8. Record TV shows to eliminate commercial time. Use TV time to read mail, exercise, iron, clean, make shopping lists, pay bills, cut coupons, wrap presents, etc. Or intentionally do nothing if this is your “refill time.”

9. If you don’t record TV shows, use commercial time for 2-minute-clean-up times. Declutter, clean a surface, empty one shelf of the dishwasher, clean a toilet or mirror or sink, set the table for breakfast, etc. Involve everyone in your household: have them pick up their stuff, do a chore, get ready for bed, etc.

10. Plan your dinner menus to piggy-back off each other. Make extra pasta one night, and turn it into a pasta salad the next night. Grill extra chicken one night, and serve it on a salad the next night.

By following some of the tips above, you may find you have some extra “refill time” or at least reduce the stress in your life a little!

How do you double your time? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Other ways to save time:

The "Do It Now" Mindset
Capturing Usable Moments
Save Time and Clutter by Making Decisions
Getting Organized for School - Planning Dinner

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summertime Tips

I found these summertime tips while browsing through magazines recently and thought you might enjoy them.

"I slice up lemons and limes and freeze them in ice cube trays along with some water. When it's time to serve refreshments, they're a festive addition to drinks.
" Fina Guido, Haledon,NJ family circle june 09 p. 18

"When I travel with my family I make portable pillows out of 2-gallon resealable plastic bags. I blow into them to inflate and then slide them into a t-shirt or pillowcase. They're perfectly comfy for the car or plane and don't take up space in our suitcases."
Laura Roscoe, Patrick, SC family circle june 09 p. 18

"I keep a cooler in the trunk of my car to store cold or frozen items that I buy at the grocery store. It allows me to continue running errands without worrying that my perishables will spoil." Denise Ehret, Collingswood, NJ family circle june 09 p. 18

"Cold compost - "I keep a plastic container in my freezer at all times. When I cut fruit and vegetables or crack eggs, I add all my scraps to it.The compost bin is handy, out of sight and doesn't smell up the kitchen. Carrie Elsass, Conway, AR Family Circle, June 2009, p. 101.

Comments? Click here if you subscribe by email and want to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:

A Dozen Helpful Hints to Simplify Your Life
Cooler Safety 101

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Search My Blog!

I just added a new search tool to my blog to make searching for what you want easier! On the left sidebar just under my picture.

Shaving a Few Minutes Off Laundry Time

Our current foster girls are game lovers. So we've played Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, quadruple solitaire, hand and foot and more! It's been fun yet consuming, too! :) This morning we have no early morning appointments, so I have a little space. Woo Hoo! So ... let's talk about laundry!

Shave a Few Minutes Off Laundry Time

If you have a rod that you hang your clean clothes on as they come out of the dryer, organize them as you hang them up.
For example, I hang my husbands sport shirts together, t-shirts together, pants together, etc. I hang my clothes at the other end of the rod and organize them in a similar way.

Even though it takes no extra time to organize your laundry this way, it does save time when it comes to putting them away in the closet.
You can take each grouping and place them with the like grouping in your closet.

If you arrange your clothes according to color, take a moment to rearrange each category, incorporating the clean clothes. And you're done!

When you organize your clothes according to color, it's easier to get dressed in the morning and find what you need.
You know what you have. Things don't get lost or overlooked. And you don't buy something you already have in your closet!

Organizing your clothes as they come out of the dryer is not very complicated, but it makes life easier. And for me, who has a mental block when it comes to getting the clean clothes into the closet, it's one less hurdle to get over. But I'm spoiled - my husband puts away the clothes. :)

Comments? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Other Laundry Ideas:
Organizing Laundry
Laundry tip - color-coded laundry bags
Organizing Socks

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Decluttering Plastics - Which Ones are Safe?

I've heard a lot about harmful chemicals in plastics, but I really didn't know which plastics are safe and which ones aren't. So I researched it, but most articles had long dissertations about the scientific aspects of plastics.

What I really wanted to know was which ones are safe to use in the microwave. Good Housekeeping did the research for us and provided a list of acceptable plastics to use in the microwave. I've included some excerpts here, but read the entire article by Florence Williams for a very extensive take on this subject.

"We all do it: Pop a plate of leftovers covered with plastic wrap in the microwave or warm up extra tomato sauce in a plastic container. But news reports have suggested that this may not be perfectly safe, that if there are chemicals — phthalates and BPA — in the plastic, they might migrate into our food. How likely is this?

To find out, we shopped at supermarkets and mass merchandisers for leading brands of microwave-safe containers, wraps, and bags, and at a dollar store for some so-called value brands. We also tossed into our shopping cart packages of best-selling frozen dinners for both children and adults and plastic liners designed to be used in a slow cooker. In short, we gathered together a potpourri of the kind of plastic items most of us use for heating foods.

We shipped several samples of each item off to an independent lab, where they were shredded into bits, then analyzed to see if any detectable amounts of BPA and phthalates were present in the products. The good news: Twenty-seven of the products tested contained no phthalates or BPA.

Three, however, did contain low levels of BPA:

- the containers (or bottom sections) of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids,

- Rubbermaid Premier containers, and

- Glad Storage Zipper Bags;

Glad Press'n Seal wrap had low levels of both phthalates and BPA.

Next, the lab tested these four items with "food simulants" — chemicals designed to stand in for real food in a lab. (Our federal health agencies, like the FDA, allow the use of food simulants in testing.)

Results: No detectable BPA or phthalates migrated from the products into the simulants.

For a real-life test, we microwaved Old World Style RagĂș Traditional Smooth Pasta Sauce and Heinz Home Style Gravy Savory Beef in the two Rubbermaid containers and in a glass bowl covered with Press'n Seal. As you're unlikely to heat up tomato sauce or gravy in a plastic bag, we eliminated the Glad Storage Zipper Bags from this part of the testing. The lab first evaluated the foods straight from the jars to ensure that there were no phthalates or BPA present in the sauces before they were transferred to the test containers. In addition to testing foods heated in brand-new containers, we used ones that we had put through 30 rounds of microwaving and cleaning in the dishwasher, to see if wear and tear made a difference.

Clearly good news: None of the samples of sauce or gravy had detectable levels of either BPA or phthalates.

Products tested that contained no phthalates or BPA:

  1. Tupperware CrystalWave container
  2. Tupperware CrystalWave lid
  3. Tupperware Rock 'N Serve container
  4. Tupperware Rock 'N Serve lid
  5. Rubbermaid EasyFind Lids lid
  6. Rubbermaid Premier lid
  7. Glad SimplyCooking Microwave Steaming Bags
  8. Ziploc Brand Zip 'n Steam Microwave Steam Cooking Bags
  9. GladWare Containers with Interlocking Lids container
  10. GladWare Containers with Interlocking Lids lid
  11. Ziploc Brand Containers with Snap 'N Seal Lids container
  12. Ziploc Brand Containers with Snap 'N Seal Lids lid
  13. Webster Industries Good Sense storage container
  14. Webster Industries Good Sense storage container lid
  15. United Plastics 21 oz Bowl
  16. Saran Premium wrap
  17. Saran Cling Plus Clear Plastic Wrap
  18. Glad Cling Wrap Clear Plastic Wrap
  19. Reynolds Clear Seal-Tight Plastic Wrap
  20. Ziploc Brand Storage Bags with Double Zipper
  21. Ziploc Brand Freezer Bags with Double Zipper
  22. Glad Freezer Storage Bags
  23. Reynolds SlowCooker Liners
  24. Kid Cuisine All Star Chicken Breast Nuggets container
  25. Kid Cuisine All Star Chicken Breast Nuggets film cover
  26. Stouffer's frozen Homestyle Classics Lasagna with Meat & Sauce tray
  27. Stouffer's frozen Homestyle Classics Lasagna with Meat & Sauce film covering

The following items contained low levels of phthalates or PBA but the chemicals did not leach into food during microwave heating:

  1. Rubbermaid EasyFind Lids container
  2. Rubbermaid Premier container
  3. Glad Press'n Seal Multipurpose Sealing Wrap
  4. Glad Food Storage Bags*

*Tested with simulants but not food."

Here's some more helpful information:

"The insides of food cans are often lined with an epoxy resin that keeps corroding metal away from the food. But bisphenol A in that resin can migrate into the foods; in fact, it's the major source of our exposure to the chemical, says the government's National Toxicology Program.

While the FDA has issued reassuring statements about the risk, other experts aren't so convinced. In 2007, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found BPA in more than half of the 97 food cans it tested, with the highest levels coming from chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli. Just one to three servings of those foods with those concentrations could expose a woman or a child to BPA at levels that cause serious adverse effects in animal tests, the group concluded.

Though you may see "BPA-free" on some canned goods, food manufacturers are not required to list the chemical on labels, so you have no way of knowing whether it's present. To limit your family's exposure:

  • Buy more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose soups and broths that come in aseptic boxes or dried soup mixes in nonplastic bags.
  • Be extra cautious with infants: If you use commercial formula, buy it in powdered form, which comes in a foil-lined cardboard container and shouldn't have any BPA, says the FDA.
  • Use BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups."
Comments? Email subscribers click here to be taken back to the original blog article.

Other safety topics:
Cooler Safety 101
Demystifying Food Expiration Dates
Preventive Organizing - Changing Smoke Alarm Batteries and Other Preventive Measures You Never Knew About

Monday, June 15, 2009

15 Minutes for Yourself

I don't know about you, but school has only been out for our girls for a few days, and I'm already tired! I came across this blog on Relaxation Tips for Moms by Donna Chaffins and thought I'd pass it along to you.

Just because you're not a mom doesn't mean you can't use some of these great ideas!

"Women, especially moms, have a hard time finding (or making) the time to relax. The saying "no rest for the weary" comes to mind. We are so busy taking care of our family, our home, volunteering and working, that we forget about ourselves.

Whether it's working out of the home or working from home, more and more moms are bringing in a salary to help relieve the financial strain in their households. In fact, more and more women are becoming the sole breadwinners.

So with all the responsibilities we have, it is difficult to find the time to relax.
Why? Why don't we take the time for ourselves? We spend our time being care givers to everyone else, but won't or don't take the time for ourselves. We MUST take care of ourselves so we CAN give our best to others.

If you are a busy mom, learn to value yourself as a person and schedule personal time. You deserve it! Start with fifteen minutes. I know you can spare 15 minutes a day for yourself.

So starting today try these tips:

Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary

When you take a bath, add candles, bubble bath, quiet music and/or an inflatable bath pillow. Your regular bath has now become a spa experience. If you watch a movie, pop a bag of microwave popcorn, turn out the lights and curl up on the couch.

Rise with the sun

Get up 30 minutes earlier than the rest of your family. I know it's hard to get up early. But if this is the only time the house is completely quiet... it may be a good time for you to have some "me" time. Spend the time meditating, doing yoga, going for a walk, reading a book or just sitting quietly drinking your coffee. The whole purpose is to have some "me" time before the rest of the family wakes up.

Always be prepared - Just like the Boy Scouts

If you go ahead and pack lunches, lay out and iron (if needed) clothes the night before, and place shoes and backpacks by the front door so kids can grab them on their way out. The fewer things you have to do throughout the day, the calmer and less stressed your mornings will be.
I don't know about you but if my day starts off on the wrong foot it sets the mood for the rest of my day.

Take breaks

When you get a few minutes the last thing you want to do is exercise but getting a little physical activity in your day can help relieve stress. Endorphins are released into your system when you exercise and endorphins make us "feel good". Do jumping jacks and push-ups during a television commercial. Also try yoga or meditation. Just take breaks throughout your day to do something healthy for yourself. It doesn't have to take but 5 minutes a few times a day.

Laughter is the best medicine

Subscribe to a daily joke site or keep a funny calendar cube on your desk. You can watch just about anything online nowadays... so watch your favorite sitcom or stand up comic - and have a good ole belly laugh. Laughing releases stress and can lift your spirits. Plus did you know laughing will keep your abs tight?

Ask for help

Don't be too proud to ask your spouse or SO for help. The whole family need to pitch in and do their part. Assign chores or responsibilities to each family member. But remember to be flexible. And it's important for kids to spend time with dad. While the kids are bonding with daddy, you can go shopping, work out, take a leisurely bath, read a book, work in the garden or just enjoy the quiet time.

Moms, just remember that your family depends on you. And if you don't take care of yourself you can't give your best to your family. YOU deserve it. So pamper yourself everyday."

What do you do to refresh yourself? Email subscribers click here to return to the original blog.

Similar topics:

Spring Cleaning the Noise
Getting a Good Night's Sleep Despite Daylight Savings
Why Time Off Is Well Spent

Friday, June 12, 2009

Your Priorities, Passions, and Gifts Create Context for Your Clutter

I was helping a client organize her office the other day. The surfaces were clear. The floor was clear. We had a lot of papers to go through.

But we had to stop. Before we could proceed, I needed to know her priorities. She had mentioned half a dozen interests and activities in which she participated. She was in the midst of rethinking her life. But in order for us to move forward, she needed to identify her mission and vision for her life.

We had a fascinating conversation about where she wanted to go and how her background would support her in this direction. We talked about incorporating our spiritual lives in our work, which is important to both of us. And I was able to share some of the things I have learned about owning my businesses, marketing them, etc.

As a result of our chat, she could easily determine which papers, books, etc. were important to her goals and which were not. She loves to learn, and loves incoming information, but she needed a filtering system to determine boundaries.

We also set up some simple systems for incoming paper and email. Filing systems should not be so complicated that
- you dread using them, or
- you can't remember what you have, or
- you forget how to use them!

Before organizing anything, knowing your own priorities and passions and gifts is essential! How else can you know if your clutter should be kept or not?

Do you have a mission and vision for your life? Do you know what your priorities, passions, and gifts are? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:

Reduce Your Stress - Say No
Why Throw Shallow New Years' Resolutions at Yourself When You Really Need to Rethink Life?
Getting Organized for School (and life!) - Determining The Legacy You Want to Leave Your Children

Discover your passions, priorities, and gifts! Any of the time management books in the 1-2-3...Get Organized series will help you think through these critical concepts. Rethinking Life is an interactive coaching package with Beverly Coggins should you prefer verbal processing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Organizing Legos - Or Not

Professional Organizers were chatting recently (NAPO chat - National Association of Professional Organizers) about Legos. Even though those involved in the chat had tried sorting and organizing their kids' Legos, the consensus was that their kids liked to be able to "dig" for their Lego pieces. So why bother?

Some valuable tips from the discussion:

- Any large bin with a tight fitting cover should keep Legos contained while not in use, and safe from younger siblings.

- Or, instead of one large bin, use several medium-sized bins and tackle or tool boxes to hold special projects. Tool boxes with a few compartments on the top save special pieces along with the project the kids are working on.

- Low-to-the-ground train tables allow kids to leave their projects out between play sessions. Here's one that was recommended:

- Spread a flat bed sheet on the floor on which your children can play with their Legos. When it's time to clean up, you can pick up the sheet and funnel the pieces into your container. This eliminates discovering little tiny pieces with your bare feet!

How do you manage your kids' Legos? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:

Organizing "Messy" Toys

Get Organized Month 2009 - Family Five Minute Challenge

Downsizing Toys before Christmas,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Peace-of-Mind Vacation Check List - What to Do Before You Leave

Good Morning! It has been crazy busy at our house. Last night we had a celebration dinner for our high school graduate! I made her a college survival kit with a bunch of items she'll need for college (first aid kit, sewing kit, super glue, glue sticks, laundry bag, scissors, screwdriver sets, and lots more) plus my Hassle Free Dinners, Three Steps to Time Management for the college student, and My Favorite Recipes. She seems to think she is going to do a lot of cooking while living in a dorm. :)

I'm reposting a blog I did last summer ...

Peace-of-Mind Vacation Check List - What to Do Before You Leave

In order to insure that your time away on vacation is relaxing and refreshing, make sure to take care of a few things before you leave.

- Make arrangements for your mail and packages. One option is to stop your mail through the post office (you can do it online at www.usps.com). If you do this, you may want to ask a neighbor to watch for packages, as well. We have a weekly paper that is delivered whether we want it or not - it's a sure sign that we're not home if it's sitting on our front porch for days.

Another option is to get a neighbor or friend to pick up your mail and watch for packages. Sometimes we hire a neighbor kid to pick up the mail and walk around the house to look for packages. UPS sometimes delivers to our front porch and sometimes to our back porch!

- Put your lights on timers. We have some that are programmable to go on at different times each night. It makes it look like you are home and there is activity in different parts of the house. We actually leave them on all the time, so if we're out for the evening, it doesn't look like it.

- Stop your newspapers. Most newspapers give you the option to donate your unused days to schools, etc. It's still helpful to have someone watch, though, as we've had newspapers delivered even when we've requested a stop.

- Make arrangements for your pets - a kennel, someone to come over and feed and play with your cat, feed your fish or birds, etc. There are all sorts of pet-sitting services these days, too.

- Make arrangements for your plants - either have someone water them or use a long-term watering system.

- Make arrangements for your lawn. A shaggy yard with yellow newspapers sitting around is an invitation to thieves.

- Pay your bills that will be due while you are gone and soon after you arrive home. You don't want to have to face bills as soon as you come home!

- Remove perishable items from your fridge and pantry. You may want to make a list of items you'll need when you return while it's fresh on your mind, so you don't have to think about it when you come home. Both milk and bread are freezable - just remember to buy milk with the screw-on lids and empty a little so it doesn't explode all over your freezer!

- Adjust your thermostats to save energy while you're away. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to reflect your absence.

- Give a neighbor your cell phone number or contact number - just in case they notice water pouring out of your house, or some other such emergency!

- Look back at your house as you leave. We almost left our front door open once. And you certainly don't want to be wondering if you left your garage door open!

- While you're away, you may want to pick up a souvenir or gift for anyone watching your house, pets, or plants.

With all these details taken care of, you'll have peace of mind while you're away and can enjoy being refreshed and rejuvenated!

If you'd like to comment on the original blog and you receive this via email, click here.

Similar topics:

Why Time Off Is Well Spent
Christmas in July
Redeeming Your Travel Time

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Garage/Yard Sale Tips

Good Morning! Today's the last day of school for our girls. I'm looking forward to a little more relaxed schedule in one sense. But it will be a little more intense, too! As I promised here are some garage/yard sale tips:

The following tips for having a successful garage/yard sale are gleanings from a NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) chat.

- The best thing you can do to ensure good profits at a garage sale is make sure all the items are clean, clean, clean.

- Put tablecloths on tables, even if they're just plastic ones.

- Group like with like, just as you'd find in a store.

- Hang clothing, don't pile it on tables or leave it in boxes. Try to organize by type (boys, girls, men, women) and even further by size.

- For pricing, it all depends on quality. If it's nearly new, mark it slightly above half of retail. If it's slightly used or worn, then just below half of retail and so on.

- If items are new, leave the price tags on so people can see what a bargain they're getting. If you can find pictures of items in Sunday newspaper ads, attach those, too.

You can use Salvation Army or Goodwill prices as a guideline. Theirs are pretty close to garage sale prices.

- Another key is good signage with big fat lettering that can readily be seen from a passing car.

What are your best garage sale tips? Email subscribers, click here to comment.

Similar topics:
Garage sale time!
Cash from your Clutter
Recycling Computer Components

Monday, June 8, 2009

Before and After Pictures - Organizing a Bedroom

I spent some time last week helping a client organize a bedroom. I took some pictures so you can see the progress, too. The before pictures are on the left and the after
pictures are on the right.

Thankfully, my client is going to have a garage sale soon, so most of our unwanted items were removed from the room, awaiting that event. But they could have been donated just as easily.

We emptied four pieces of furniture, which will be sold in the garage sale. One bookcase was able to go into another room, but the three matching cream-colored pieces had to stay in the room because there was nowhere else to put them. But once they are sold, the bedroom will be roomy and uncluttered!

Now my client has a functional, quiet refuge where she can read, watch a movie or spend some time to herself!

When you rid yourself of unnecessary clutter, not only is your house lighter but you feel lighter yourself, as you are not carrying the burden of owning so many possessions! My client expressed her relief at getting rid of so much stuff! She did a great job of making decisions and not holding on to things she no longer needs!

I'll have some garage sale tips tomorrow.

What room do you need to declutter and reorganize? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Some similar topics:
Spring Cleaning Bedrooms
Get Organized Month 2009 - Some Words from Peter Walsh, Organizing Guru
Organizing Drawers
Get Oranized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Clothes Closet

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mouthwash and Mosquitoes

Happy Friday!. We received a house of girls yesterday - what a crazy schedule - one is a senior and out of school already, another is taking finals and has an erratic schedule, and the other is in middle school and wants one of us to go on a field trip with her next week! It didn't occur to me that it was finals week and I scheduled an organizing appointment today! I think I've figured out how we can cover all the bases, though. :) On to our unusual blog ...

Mouthwash and Mosquitoes

I recently received this information about Listerine and mosquitoes. I haven't tried it, and the source was not given. But I thought it sounded interesting and worth a try if it makes spending time outdoors mosquito-proof! Here are two comments on the subject:

"I was at a deck party awhile back, and the bugs were having a ball biting everyone. A man at the party sprayed the lawn and deck floor with Listerine, and the little demons disappeared. The next year I filled a 4-ounce spray bottle and used it around my seat whenever I saw mosquitoes. And voila! That worked as well. It worked at a picnic where we sprayed the area around the food table, the children's swing area, and the standing water nearby. During the summer, I don't leave home without it.

"I tried this on my deck and around all of my doors. It works - in fact, it killed them instantly. ... It will last a couple of days. Don't spray directly on a wood door (like your front door), but spray around the frame. Spray around the window frames, and even inside the dog house."

Have any of you tried this? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More Outdoor Tips:
Cooler Safety 101
A Dozen Helpful Hints to Simplify Your Life
Foil - A Griller's Friend

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Organizing Your Keepsakes into Bins

I wanted to pass along this suggestion of keepsake bins from
Lisa Mark as discussed in
one of the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) chats:

"Each of my kids (as well as my husband and I) has a keepsake bin in the garage into which they (and I) can put special things--beloved toys, outgrown clothing, special artwork. We're pretty picky about what goes in there but it does allow us to keep those things that are really special.

Each child gets one bin. Period. This is the hardest part, but we stick to it. I have letters and toys in my bin from my childhood, notes from beloved grandparents who have passed away, and small keepsakes from my elementary school years.

My oldest occasionally flings something into her bin; my
youngest takes great care with what she chooses to include in hers. One of her choices--an inexpensive tee shirt with a picture of a cat on it that she wore when she was four years old. The cat took on a life of it's own--it had a name, a personality, a whole existence created by my daughter. She loved that shirt to pieces, literally, and she was heartbroken when she outgrew it.

Binning it was a way for us to hold on to those wonderful
memories and a way for her to release that closet space to something more useful. The keepsake bins are a great way to ensure that we have a place to keep meaningful items without cluttering up our small space.

Every few years we
go through these bins and take out items that have lost their meaning over time. I try to encourage my clients to do the same. Often after a house clean-out, clients end up with several bins of keepsakes in the garage or in a storage closet. This allows them to honor their memories and keep their treasures without impacting their living space."

What do you do with your keepsakes? Email subscribers, click here to comment.

Similar topics:
What to do with those trophies?!
Chopping Big Chores down into Bite-Sized Chunks
Decluttering Tips

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Score: Herbs 1, Squirrels 0 ... So Far

As you know, I'm carrying on a never-ending battle with our squirrels. As long as I'm diligent to sprinkle dried red pepper flakes in everything, the squirrels don't bother my planters. But if it rains (like today), I have to remember to reapply the pepper flakes. So far, I'm doing pretty well. But as you can see, I caught one of the squirrels sunning himself next to my mesculun planter, just waiting for me to mess up! Sunscreen anyone?

More Herb Stuff

I spoke with Rose about my "perennial herbs." Rose is a 30+ year member of the Evening Herb Guild in Portage County, Ohio. She said that most herbs are not perennials other than chives, mint and some oregano. My parsley and cilantro came back this year, but they only last for a short time and are already waning.

So all that careful planning of my herb garden last year was for naught! I don't know where I googled my herb information last year, but my experience and Rose's expertise has proved them wrong!

Rose also mentioned that you should remove the purple blossoms from chives in order to keep them growing from year to year. She suggested putting the blossoms in vinegar to flavor it!

What a wealth of knowledge I have discovered in my aquatics class! First a master gardener and now an herb specialist! How enlightening!

Do you have some enlightening herb and garden tips? Email subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More on herbs and garden:

Score: Squirrels 1, Bev 0
So Much for Organizing My Herb Garden!
Tips from a Master Gardener - Watering, Mulch

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reorganizing the Office

As you may recall, I recently got a new laptop for my business. I was hoping to rid myself of my desktop computer, but have found that there are some files on that computer that didn't translate well onto my mac. So I'm going to have to keep both.

It has been bothering me for some time, as things were messy - my desk had been set up with everything at my fingertips. But my laptop doesn't fit on my desk. So I got a little laptop desk and used it at one of the comfortable chairs in my office.

However, nothing was at my fingertips as the chair was across the room. So things got messy, as they were harder to put away and I had no place for work in progress. But I couldn't come up with a good plan for rearranging my office, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it.

So, I just left it, and one day an idea hit me. Haven't you had that happen? You stop thinking about a problem and the solution comes to you when you least expect it! Even though I was frustrated to leave the problem unsolved, I knew the answer would pop up some time.

We rearranged the office furniture a little and my laptop desk could fit at right angles at one end of my desk. It's a tight squeeze, but it's acceptable. Not worthy of HGTV, but acceptable. Once again I have everything at my fingertips with both computers within reach. It's so much easier to be organized when everything I need is close at hand.

How do you keep your office organized? Email subscribers, click here to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:

Get Organized Month 2009 - Rethink Your Desk
Visual or ADD Organizers - Keeping Your Desk Organized
Clutter in Your House or Office Means Clutter in Your Mind

If you need help organizing your office, Three Steps to Organizing Your Office is a simple solution!

Monday, June 1, 2009

An Unusual, Time-Saving Painting-Prep Tool

How was your weekend? We had some friends over for dinner on Friday night, did some house projects and gardening, and I helped a client organize her bedroom, which I'll tell you about later this week. One of the house projects we did:

On Saturday I decided to touch up the red railing on the steps up to our front door. But first I needed to protect the cement steps. There is still a red dot of paint on a step from the last time I painted the railing - hmph!.

It took FOREVER to cover the steps last time - taping down newspaper. But this time, I decided to try Glad Press and Seal. I use it on our craft table for easy clean up and to protect the table. Why not try it on the steps?

I cut off strips in appropriate sizes. It was flexible enough to wrap around the footings at the bottoms of the posts. It took a fraction of the time as it did last time! I placed rocks on top of the wrap to protect it from gusts. Fabulous! My husband volunteered to do the sanding, so we finished the job in no time!

We still need to do some additional coats, so we left the wrap on the steps and it has stayed in tact so far.

What are your painting tricks? Email subscribers, click here to comment on the original blog.

Similar topics:

Saving Time by Cutting Out Craft Clean Up
Scheduling in Clean-Up Time after Projects
A Dozen Helpful Hints to Simplify Your Life