Monday, April 14, 2014

The ULTIMATE De-Cluttering Guide (for April)

It's April and it is the perfect time.  For what, you ask?  It's time to check off "April tasks" from this month-by-month de-cluttering guide from our "Big O" Organizer, Monica Ricci!  It's below, but be sure to click the link above for the entire guide, in case you want to spring ahead...

Enjoy and let us know how your de-cluttering is coming along - drop us a line on FaceBook or through email!

Our grandmothers swore by spring cleaning and even if you aren’t in the mood to deep clean your house top to bottom, why not get a handle on your bed and bath linens? Sheets and towels feel a little like coffee mugs; if one is good, seven is better, right?? Just as you can only use one coffee mug at a time, your bed can only wear one set of sheets at a time so why do you have so many? Ideally, each bed should have two sets of sheets; one to wear and one to put on when the first set is in the laundry. The exception to the two-sets rule would be a third set of flannels for winter.

First gather all your sheets, pillowcases, towels and washcloths and sort them into a bed linens pile and bath linens pile. Then choose two sets of sheets for each bed, keeping only the best ones with intact, stretchy elastic. Set aside one less-than-perfect flat sheet to keep in the trunk of your car to protect your seats when you transport anything dirty, wet or sharp (like dogs, kids, or furniture).

Next, examine your towels and washcloths, setting aside any with holes, fraying edges or discolorations. Every towel you own doesn’t have to be perfect, but they should all be suitable for guests. I recommend keeping only the best ones to use (two or three per person) and putting away a few of the rest as emergency clean up rags. Donate your leftover linens to a local animal shelter, where they’ll be used to line dog and cat crates. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

The BEST "Spring Cleaning" Guide EVER!

There are SO, SO, SO many tips and articles about getting ready for Spring ... but we have discovered our favorite.  Put it like this: rejuvenate and refresh (yeah!) vs clean (boo!).  That's our Spring attitude!  This guide helps get you organized and feeling good without all the heavy cleaning on the long to-do list.  Plus, the authors seem to be pretty cool.  (wink, wink).

Check it out here: Our Spring Cleaning Guide

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Carole P. Roman!

Meet Carole P. Roman, a self-declared swashbuckler, life-long learner, award-winning author, dare-taker, proud mother, grandmother and wife of 41 years, and business woman.  She’s amazing and interesting!  We just love her philosophies on life and family.  READ OUR EXCLUSIVE e-INTERVIEW HERE!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Show Notes: The Big O - Spring Clean

To many, the turn of a season symbolizes renewal and happiness. It's an opportunity to feel great about our lives and our homes. Some spring clean, while others freshen up or get more organized. On this episode of The Big O, we do a little of each!  

We cover ...
• 4 most overlooked things to clean that will make the biggest difference
• 4 critical but simple home maintenance tasks to do when you spring clean
• 2 biggest clutter spots to tackle during spring cleaning 

Get your SPRING on and Listen right here!  Scroll on down for details on another Big O give-a-way, photos, and more.

Now, here's your BIG O (for overview) ...

O - Outstanding Guest 
Hello Monica Ricci our highly regarded Certified Professional Organizer, author, industry expert, media spokesperson and motivational speaker and trainer.  Monica is known for her upbeat and inspiring presentations! 
Click HERE for a chance to win your very own Amanda's Pink Tool Bag!

O - OMG (Win, Win, Win!)
Organized Living and The Amandas is giving away one FREE fully-stocked Pink Tool Bag so one lucky winner can DIY and organize in style!  Contest ends April 10th, so enter now

Sending Cards Should be Simple ...
Did you know that Sent-Well can create custom cards and stationary for you?  Send them in a photo and they'll turn it into a digital work of art!  They also offer handwritten notes that they address, stamp and send to everyone on your list: thank you cards, change of address, holidays, business correspondence, invitations and more!

O - Organizing Resources
as discussed on the show ...
Organized Living's FREEBIE -  Spring Guide to Decluttering the Home! - washing machine hoses that are made is the USA and have a 20 year warranty.  

This photo shows what a bulge, and a potential home disaster, looks like.  Good thing Monica found these early!

MagnaPods  - when it comes to utilizing a previously unused space like the inside of cabinet doors, use a magnetic sheet to make any space, usable space.

Clean Mama - get your home clean and organized with Becky (a.k.a. Clean Mama)! Discover new ways to do the mundane tasks (like cleaning windows).

O - Ovation
Thank you to our sponsors at Organized Living and Sent-Well for a wonderful series!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Oven Light: Pancake Toppers

We suggested our favorite pancake mix-in's, so now it's time for the TOPPERS!  Some of these might seem lengthy but don't let that scare you away.  Sure, some are involved, not difficult, but they require a few steps.  The result ... a jar of granola for other uses, lots of left-over syrup and extra strawberry topping for ice-cream!  It will be worth the effort!  And remember, the mix-ins in our last post can be used as toppers too!

Our Top 6 Pancake Toppings Ever:

Nutty Streusel Topping
Best Vanilla Glaze
Emeril's Strawberry Topping
Best Homemade Granola
Custard-Style Vanilla Sauce (great on pumpkin or sweet potato pancakes!)
Easy Seedless Raspberry (or Blackberry) Syrup

Yummy Tip:  Use both the streusel topping and vanilla glaze to create "cinnamon roll pancakes"!

Nutty Streusel 
1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 T. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts, pecans or walnuts

In a small bowl, blend all ingredients with a fork until crumbly.

Best Vanilla Glaze
1/3 c. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 to 6 T. hot water

Heat butter until melted.  Remove from heat.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in water one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.

Emeril's Strawberry Topping
Source: Food Network
1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and diced (or thawed frozen unsweetened strawberries) - about 3 cups
1 c. sugar
3 T. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the strawberries are soft and the syrup is thickened and reduced by one-third to one-half in volume, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before serving.  If thinner syrup is desired, strain the hot syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a container and let cool.

Best Homemade Granola
3 T. packed brown sugar
3 T. honey
1 1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. whole natural almonds
1/3 c. sliced almonds
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. golden raisins

Heat oven to 350ยบ.  Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.  In a heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat, mix sugar, honey, sesame oil, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extract.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Mix in oats and sesame seeds to coat completely.  Spread evenly on baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes to toast almonds.  Cool in the pan, then mix with cranberries and raisins in a large bowl.  Store airtight.  Top with yogurt or milk, or eat alone by the handful.

Custard-Style Vanilla Sauce
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in flour and sugar.  Add milk and stir over medium heat until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Easy Seedless Raspberry Syrup
2 c. frozen unsweetened berries (raspberry, blackberry)
1 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. butter
1/2 c. light corn syrup

In a medium-sized pan, combine the berries and the water.  Cook over hight heat for approximately 10 minutes, breaking up the berries as they cook, using a wire whisk.  Cool for 10 minutes and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, using a large spoon to push through as much of the juice and pulp as possible.  You should end up with 1 1/2 cups.  If you are a bit shy of that amount, add enough water to bring it up to the correct amount.  Return the liquid to a clean, medium saucepan and whisk in the sugar and butter.  Place over high heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until temperature reaches 200 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup.  Cool completely and store in the fridge.


Final Topper:  Don't forget the powdered sugar shaker on the table!  I love ours from Amazon!

100+ Toppers:  Need even more toppers?  I certainly couldn't come up with over 100 but they did.  Foodies Unite comprised a yummy list of 102 in honor of National Pancake Day.  Check it out here!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The ULTIMATE De-Cluttering Guide (for March)

We LOVE this month-by-month de-cluttering guide from our "Big O" Organizer, Monica Ricci!  

With Monica's practical tips you can say GOODBYE to (insert your own here): overwhelm, knick-knacks, disorganization, lost items, and stress.  Then say HELLO to (insert your own here): joy, organization, cleanliness, productivity, and focus.

Below you'll find an excerpt from March, but feel free to click on the link to the entire guide above if you're feeling extra motivated and want to de-clutter ahead! Enjoy and let us know how your de-cluttering is coming along - drop us a line on FaceBook or through email!

Now that you have your room-by-room list of items to move out of your life, begin taking digital photos of each piece you’re interested in selling. Then jot the height, width and depth of each item and next to each item on your list; you’ll want to include as much info as possible when you write your online ad.

Meanwhile, look over the items on your list that you’ve marked as “donate” and begin planning their transition. For larger items, list them on your local Freecycle group. I promise they’ll be done within a few days. Drop smaller items at a nearby Goodwill donation center. If you itemize your tax deductions, be sure to get a receipt on the way out. The Goodwill website has a free downloadable donation valuation guide to make it easy to figure out how much to deduct.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Coolest Thing at IKEA

These organizing cups are adorable, highly functional and so versatile!  Hang them in the kitchen, office, kid's room, bathroom, laundry room or any storage area.  Can you believe the racks are $1.99 and the cups are $.99 each?  My kids love theirs - his next to his loft bed and hers next to her play table.  One of my favorite things at IKEA!

Be sure to listen to The Big O where we discuss the little things.  We organize everything from batteries to bulbs, coupons to cables, kitchen gadgets to gift cards! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Show Notes: The Big O - Downsizing

We live our lives thinking that MORE is better and BIGGER is better.  According to our organizing expert, Monica Ricci ... NOT TRUE.  On this episode of our Big O Series, we chat about having LESS, we organize smarter, think double-duty, de-clutter and utilize our space better.  Basically, we downsize!  Listen to the show here and then scroll on down for details our latest Big O give-a-way, photos, and more.  (It's everything we chatted about, rolled into one little blog post!)

Enjoy your BIG O  (overview) ...

O - Outstanding Guest 
Meet Monica Ricci,  our highly regarded Certified Professional Organizer, author, industry expert, media spokesperson and motivational speaker and trainer.  Monica is known for her upbeat and inspiring presentations! 

The first 25 listeners who send in measurements for their space, get a free custom-3D design from Organized Living!  Plus, EVERY listener can enter for a chance to win a trunk organizer.  Organized Living has 3 to give away!  For both of these promotions, click here for all the details and to enter! 


Be Organized with your Gift-ing this Season and SAVE!  Think Spring.  Think St. Patrick's Day.  Think Mom or Easter.  It's not too early to visit Sent-Well!  When ordering your special holiday cards (and fun gifts to slip in the envelope) enter the code "V&J2014" for a 15% discount.

O - Organizing Resources

as discussed on the show ...

Kitchen Organizers by Organized Living

Grandin Road storage furniture
• All the personal photos we said we'd share!

Monica's safe and nifty way to store (and display) wine glasses. Talk about utilizing space!

Monica's favorite tip: use floating, adjustable shelves.  What else are you using your corners for?

Vicky's son obviously has a lot of STUFF in his room. Look how his desk slides right under his new IKEA loft bed. 

The adjustable shelves inside Jen's bathroom closet door, which have been adjusted several times.  Certainly, they will be adjusted again as the girls grow up since it our only full bathroom.  

O - On the Way!
Stayed tuned for our next episode: Spring Cleaning Organizing Tips with Monica, guest organizer Amanda LeBlanc, and Organized Living.  PLUS more prizes and freebies from Organized Living.  

Do you have questions or stories to share?  Email us anytime at!

O - Ovation
A big thank you to our Big O sponsors at Organized Living and Sent-Well!  We appreciate your ongoing support, excellent resources and generous prizes.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Oven Light: Pancake Mix-in's

Just recently did I start using Hungry Jack® Complete Pancake Mix.  Seriously, have NEVER bought a box of this before since I've always made my own from scratch!  I bought my first box (the Extra Light & Fluffy variety) when I discovered Erin's "Birthday Cake Pancakes" on her blog, a bird and a bean.

Just go for it ... icing, sprinkles and a candle - no matter what day it is!  Thanks a bird and a bean , I've made these 10x already.

The Birthday Cake Pancakes are amazing, by the way, even on non-birthdays, and it sort of got the ball rolling for me.  You see, if Aidan COULD, he would go to school without eating.  He's like me in the morning, nothing sounds good for breakfast!  But pancakes are the one thing he'll eat.  As you can probably relate, I don't have time to make them from scratch during the week so I used the leftover box mix (from the birthday cakes) and whipped up some flapjacks for my boy!  I can't possibly be the only one who hasn't used boxed pancake mix before, so in case you're nodding your head, it is the easiest school-day breakfast on the entire Earth!  I do use skim milk instead of water, but voila, light and fluffy pancakes just like we LIKE them and honestly, exceptionally similar to my favorite homemade recipe.  

And like I said, the ball is rolling ... soon I am adding mix-in's and making them all the time.  I'm on my third box, hee! hee!  Here are some of my recent creations ... anything goes and it's really hard to screw them up.  Using the recipe on the back of the box (the smallest batch using only 1 cup of pancake mix), I usually find that 1/4 c. of the mix-in works best.  So it's 1/4 c. mix-in + 3/4 c. of the pancake mix works best, but again you just have to experiment like me.

• canned pumpkin
• mashed baked sweet potato
• cream of wheat (I use 1-2 tablespoons of this.)
• packets of flavored instant oatmeal (I use half of a packet since these pancakes become heavy. We tried strawberries 'n cream and maple & brown sugar flavors.)
• orange juice + grated orange peel (You are subbing the liquid here. I use about 1/4-1/2 c. juice.)
• lemon & poppy seed (Use just a little freshly squeezed lemon - you decide how much - and mix in a spoonful of poppy seeds.)
• mashed banana and nuts
• bits of bacon (Get the Mom-of-the-Year Award!)
• chips or chips or chips: chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch (Earn your second award!)
• M&M's or Reese's Pieces (Yuck, but this was Aidan's addition. Kids!)
• any fresh berries, of course
• Cinnabon Sprinkle Topping (Photo: right. Sprinkle while cooking) 
• The Sneaky Chef orange puree (Start sneaking with just a tablespoon, then two.)
• wheat germ (1-2 tablespoons only)
• maple syrup (1-2 tablespoons, Mmmm, McGriddle-like.)
• shredded carrots, raisins and walnuts
• yogurt or sour cream or buttermilk (Subbing some of the liquid ...)

Really, I've tried all of those!  But I haven't tried these... but peanut butter? eggnog? applesauce?  Have fun and get crazy!  Have I missed a great idea?  Please share!

Coming soon ... part 2 on my favorite pancake toppings!

Part 2: Pancake toppers are here!  Click here for yum.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The ULTIMATE De-Cluttering Guide (for February)

We LOVE this month-by-month de-cluttering guide from our "Big O" Organizer, Monica Ricci!  

With Monica's practical tips you can say GOODBYE to (insert your own here)overwhelm, knick-knacks, disorganization, lost items, and stress.  Then say HELLO to (insert your own here): joy, organization, cleanliness, productivity, and focus.

Below you'll find an excerpt from February, but feel free to click on the link to the entire guide above if you're feeling extra motivated and want to de-clutter ahead! Enjoy and let us know how your de-cluttering is coming along - drop us a line on FaceBook or through email!

February: It can be the coldest part of winter so if you’re hunkered down indoors take a little time to focus on what’s eating up all the space in your home. Walk through each room with a tablet in hand and identify any furniture and accessories you can live without, listing them each on a separate line with plenty of room for notes. Imagine you’re moving houses and your new house is smaller than your current one. This pretend scenario will help you be more objective when thinking about the personal value of each piece.  Once you have your list complete, consider which items are suitable to sell versus what’s more appropriate to donate to Goodwill, a friend or family member. Jot a note next to each item to indicate your intention for it so you don’t forget. Don’t worry about moving anything out of your life just yet. Simply opening your eyes and your mind to the possibility of letting things go and making a list of them is a great first step.