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Saturday, May 23, 2009

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

I have something to confess. I also bought one of these while shopping at Target last week:

This is the green multi-colored flower mug from Orla Kiely. It doesn't make me smile every time I see it like the Orla Kiely bowl does, but I do like it.

Cute, isn't it?


This Makes Me Happy

I bought this Orla Kiely bowl on a whim while shopping at Target this week. I rarely buy anything on a whim these days. Every dollar I spend is scrutinized to the last penny to make sure I am buying something I really need. So I felt very guilty buying this bowl, as it cost $20+ and I don't NEED it. But oh, I do so LOVE it.

The bowl makes me happy every time I look at it. Really, it makes me smile inside.

Perhaps I needed it after all.


Friday, May 22, 2009


In the midst of my attempt at order and home organization- I saw this. It is the apartment belonging to MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach. It takes the concept of minimalism in home decor to a new level. Yes, he actually lives here. One blogger questions is he a minimalist or just boring? BORING? Uh, I'd say boring would be more like, "Gee, I don't know how to furnish my apartment so I'll just get a beige couch and a Monet poster". This is not boring, it is something else. Extreme, maybe? Obsessive? Dare I say, crazy?
But I have to say that while I find this apartment a little lonely, I do think it is slightly inspirational to see how little one can live with. As I try to cram all my crap into my tiny home, I look at these pictures and think, "can't I part with just a few more things?" I mean, Apartment Therapy's Home Cure is pretty convincing when it comes to clearing out the junk but nothing like this! And honestly, some mornings I wish my closet looked like that. What a time saver!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

This Makes Me Sad

I have been a really bad co-blogger, I haven't contributed in I don't even know how long. And this is how I return-- with a picture of a neon scrunchie. Now, don't get me wrong, I live in a neighborhood full of slackers, hipsters and too-cool college kids; so it's not like I haven't noticed the return of bad '80s style. It's been back for quite some time. But I just wasn't prepared yesterday when I went on American Apparel's website to find scrunchies for sale! I guess this is payback for my love for all things '60s when I was in high school. Now I know how my mom felt. Old. And maybe a little bit sad.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ewwww!!!....And a Great Kitchen Cleaning Tip

Did you know that your kitchen sponge is the dirtiest item in your kitchen? The small crevices of the sponge are the perfect breeding ground for millions of bacteria. When you use your sponge on a surface, you are wiping those bacteria all over whatever you are "cleaning". But don't despair, Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett, authors of The Must Have Mom Manual, have a great tip for killing those gross germs. Simply wet your sponge and pop it into the microwave for one minute. You should do this at least once a day, more if you can find the time.
Love, -40

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boys Adrift - A Must Read for Anybody Who Knows and Loves a Boy

As the mother of two boys, this book has scared the hell out of me. In the book, Dr. Sax states that we are raising a generation of unmotivated, underachieving, disinterested and disengaged boys. Even more frightening is the fact that Dr. Sax cites studies indicating that boys today have half the sperm count that boys did in the 1940's, and that they are going through puberty much later than earlier generations. There are many reasons for this, according to Dr. Sax, but the factors he discusses that hit closest to home were changes in the educational system, video games, and BPA in our food.

According to Dr. Sax, the acceleration of our educational system, resulting in kindergarten being what first grade was decades ago, has harmed boys immensely. Most five year old boys are simply not ready or able to sit quietly and learn to read as they are expected to do in today's society. As a result, the boys are placed on the slow track. The boys pick up on the fact that they are not in the "smart group" and start to dislike school. This dislike of school carries through the grades and results in disengagement and a lack of motivation. (Interestingly, the Finnish educational system has consistently ranked as the best in the world. Finland does not start to formally educate their children until the age of seven.) Dr. Sax also points to the abolition of competition in schools as significantly harming boys, as the lack of competition has taken away one of the main forces which drive boys to succeed.

Another factor causing boys' disengagement from, and disinterest in, the real world is video game playing. The chapter on video games is dense and full of facts, so I won't delve to deeply into it here, but one fact that I found alarming is that studies have found that video games containing violence have the same effect on a boy's brain as do the drugs commonly prescribed for ADHD, which drugs Dr. Sax also blames for the problems boys are experiencing today. One thing to note, Dr. Sax mentions that there is no distinction between "good" violence, i.e. where the player is a policeman killing a bad guy, and "bad" violence. Violence is violence, pure and simple, and all violent video games have the same effect on a boy's developing brain.
The chapter that scared me the most and has kept me up several nights this week is the chapter about the presence of BPA in our food. According to Dr. Sax, BPA, which is found in plastics such as those used for water bottles, acts like the hormone estrogen in males. Needless to say, estrogen in a young boy's body wreaks havoc on his system. BPA has even been found in the bloodstream of newborn males, indicating that pregnant and nursing mothers who ingest BPA are passing it on to their offspring. And the problem cannot be solved by merely quitting your bottled water habit. Look around, and you will realize that plastic touches most of the foods we eat. Cardboard milk cartons? Lined with plastic. Deli paper used for meats? Ditto. Most canned foods are housed in cans that have a plastic liner containing BPA. We use plastic containers at home to store leftovers. Our children drink out of plastic sippy cups.

So what do we do? I have not yet worked out what to do about the state of our educational system. Dr. Sax advocates for same-sex schooling, which really isn't an option for our family. But as for video games, I am going to keep a much closer eye on what my 10-year old is doing on the computer and completely ban those games that contain the slightest hint of violence. I find the plastics issue much more difficult to deal with, but what I have done so far is I have thrown away all of our plastic cups, plates and bottles. I plan to buy glass food storage containers. Absolutely no microwaving food in plastic is allowed. No more water bottled in plastic bottles. And I plan to drastically cut the amount of food we buy in cans and research those companies that use BPA-free linings.

For more information on Boys adrift, visit

Love, -40

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere!

First, let me just say that I have noticed something here in blogging land. And that thing is this - most, if not all, of the bloggers are Type A, motivated, over-achievers who have always been great cooks, photographers, organizers, etc. Don't get me wrong, this is not an insult. Some of my favorite bloggers are those perfect overachievers that know whereof they speak. But I also like to read posts from ordinary folks, those who are not perfect and are just finding their way. Folks like me. Those bloggers make me feel like there is still hope for me. Hope that I will one day wake up and my house will be clean, the children will all have matching socks to wear, I will be able to find the school form that needs to be turned in that day, and there will be milk in the refrigerator for the baby's bottle. Oh yeah, I dream big.

Anyway - you get the point. I am an underachiever. And I am just starting out in my home organization journey. Much of what I will write about will be things that many of you have been doing or have known for years. But, there may still be one or two of you that have not yet made it even to my level. (You poor, poor souls.) It is for you two that I am writing this blog.

Okay, having reiterated my sheer cluelessness, I will now share with you my newest home organization epiphany. Boxes. Shoeboxes, plastic boxes, boxes with handles, boxes without handles. I don't care what type of box you use, just use them! My only requirement is that the box has a lid. I will get to this in a minute.

Boxes make corralling all of your little stuff a breeze. Before I discovered boxes, I didn't know what to do with my kids' miscellaneous STUFF. Bakugan, Pokemon, plastic animals, markers - where to put them all? Boxes, that's where! What about adult miscellaneous stuff? Light bulbs, batteries, toiletries? You guessed it! Boxes are great for several reasons. First of all, they allow you to group like collections and groups of things together. This one is pretty obvious. Secondly, they allow you to corrall items that are not easily corralled, and items that were once not stackable are now in a stackable container. This is my favorite aspect of boxes, and also why you need to have a lid for your box. Last, but not least, once you identify your like items and create a box for them, picking up becomes much easier because you already know where everything belongs.

I have found boxes to be most useful in my kids' bedrooms, but I am also using them in the linen closets, the dining room, my bedroom - once you get going you will want a box for everything.

My system for boxing items is simple:

1. Completely clean out an area.
2. Identify like groups of items
3. Determine what size box these items will need and create a box for them
4. Label the box
5. Find the best place to keep the box

My current favorite boxes are the Kassett boxes in white from Ikea

and the clear plastic storage boxes from the Container Store Both of these boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Now go forth and divide and box!
Love, -40

My New Best Friend

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser has become my new best friend. Have you tried this thing? It is amazing. Amazing like "How does it DO that?" amazing. I have gone through six of these so far - four in my kitchen and two in the dining room. It is so easy to use - just wet it slightly and wipe it on whatever you want clean. The sponge was magic on the exterior of my painted cabinets. Magnificent on my filthy mudroom walls. Amazing on my stainless steel stink. Fabulous on my laminate countertop. (Yes, I said laminate countertop, don't get me started.) Seriously, I have not seen my twelve year old kitchen sink shine in at least three years. It now shines! And the great part is that no elbow grease is required from you. Mr. Clean does all the work. I love Mr. Clean. The only thing limiting your use of this product is your imagination.

Love, -40

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I've never claimed to be perfect, and by now I'm sure you've noticed that I am far from it. Case in point, I promised that I was going to organize and clean my dining room sometime last week and I have yet to check in. I am actually working on the dining room, but it is harder than I thought it would be. Here's the problem - each room builds on the other. When I cleaned the kitchen, it was easy to take items out of the kitchen and say "oh I'll put these in the dining room." Now that I'm in the dining room, I not only have to organize what is already there, but also the new items I've moved from the kitchen.

Making my task harder is the fact that we use our dining room for everything. Our dining room is where we eat, play, create, study - everything but sleep. I am trying to find a way to incorporate into the dining room storage all of the things that go along with these activities.

So please bear with me!

Love, -40

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Love my Lollia Candle

I cannot get enough of THIS:
It is THE BEST smelling candle EVER. Perhaps the best thing I have ever SMELLED. Pricey, but so worth it. I plan to spend my children's college funds (well, if they had funds, I would), get a second mortgage, and hock my engagement ring so that I can fill every room in the house with Lollia candles.

Love, -40

Apartment Therapy 8-Step Home Cure

The book that started it all. I don't know if I love it or hate it, but I have fallen under its spell.


I know, I know. Who needs a recipe for smoothies? Well, I do, for one. I have repeatedly try to replicate at home smoothies I have had out, and always fail.

It is important to me to be able to whip up a good smoothie at home because my kids love smoothies and I find them to be a great way to get a bunch of nutritious ingredients into my kids quickly and easily. They may not always want to eat their broccoli, but my kids have yet to pass up a smoothie.

I found these recipes in Perfect Recipes for Losing Weight & Eating Great by Pamela Anderson. I really appreciate Pamela's no-nonsense approach to cooking and the fact that she offers variations at the bottom of each recipe. I made the Vanilla Fruit Smoothie recipe as written, but omitted the 1 cup of frozen fruit in the Chocolate Fruit Smoothie recipe. The verdict: My kids finished both smoothies and asked for more. A+ in my book.

Chocolate Fruit Smoothies
1 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, dark sweet cherries, raspberries)
1 medium peeled frozen banana
1 cup light chocolate soy milk
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Optional flavorings

Drop fruit of choice and banana into a blender. Whisk soy milk, cocoa powder, and optional flavorings in a 1 cup measuring cup. With blender on high, add soy milk mixture through feeder tube, stopping and stirring as necessary, until mixture is smooth. Pour into a glass and serve. Makes 2 cups, or 1 serving

Optional Flavorings:
Chocolate-Raspberry-Orange Smoothie
use raspberries for fruit and whisk 1/4 teaspoon finely granted organge zest into soy milk.

Black Forest Smoothie
Use frozen cherries for fruit and whisk 1/2 teaspon almond extract into soy milk.

Vanilla Fruit Smoothies

1 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, dark sweet cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pineapple, mango) - I used Trader Joe's frozen mango chunks
1 medium peeled frozen banana
1 cup light vanilla soy milk
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Optional flavorings

Follow same directions as for Chocolate smoothie

Optional flavorings:
Raspberry-Orange Smoothie
Use frozen raspberries for fruit and whisk 1/4 teaspoon finely grated oranzge zest into soy milk.

Pina Colada Smoothie
Use frozen pineappple for fruit and whisk 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract into soy milk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Next Up - the Dining Room

I was supposed to clean and organize the dining room yesterday, but I had my 10-year old home sick from school and then I went to work at the library last night, so I got nothing accomplished. So - today I want to get through the dining room and reduce my mountain of laundry to a mere ant hill. Doable? We will see. Cleaning the dining room will mean - clearing off the table so that I can once again see the top of it, cleaning the walls, vacuuming and mopping the floors, emptying, decluttering and organizing the two built in cabinets, emptying the freestanding armoire that I have hated ever since I bought it and finding a home for everything in the armoire so that I can get the ugly thing out of my dining room, finding a home for everything that constitutes the piles laying around the room. (I think there are three piles).

Feel free to join in whenever you'd like!

Love, -40

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kitchen Cleaning

For phase one of my home cure, I decided to clean and organize my kitchen. This meant emptying all of the cabinets and throwing out old or expired food, getting rid of kitchen gadgets that I don't use (I plan to take them to the Salvation Army), wiping down the inside and outside of the cabinets, rethinking the use of my cabinet space, scrubbing the dishwasher, oven, microwave and refrigerator, (inside and out), washing the walls, emptying out a kitchen island that I plan to move out of the kitchen and finding new homes for the five years' worth of accumulated stuff the island was housing, cleaning the countertop, scrubbing the sink - you get the picture.

Suffice it to say that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started my "little" project. I wanted to quit halfway through, but couldn't because the kitchen looked like a bomb had exploded in it. If I had thought about it, I would have realized that it would take me more than an hour to clean and organize twelve years' worth of kitchen clutter. But I never would have imagined that it would take me one whole weekend and three Mr. Clean sponges. By the way, if you have not familiarized yourself with Mr. Clean sponges, you need to do so AT ONCE. These things are AMAZING. A few swipes of a Mr. Clean sponge on the outside of my very dirty painted cabinets, and they looked better than I had ever thought possible. I have never gotten my kitchen so clean using other cleaners and sponges. Anyway - I now know why Apartment Therapy gives readers weeks to accomplish their kitchen cure, rather than days.

Next time, I will know better.

As if there will be a next time.

Love, -40

P.S. I will post pictures later. I would have done a before and after, but I was too embarrassed to showcase my before.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Apartment Therapy's Seven Week Cure

Apartment therapy is currently running its eight step home cure challenge. With seven weeks done, and only 1.25 weeks remaining, I am a little late to join the bandwagon. Truth be told, I don't even want to join the bandwagon, per se. The cure is a little to extensive and intense for the likes of me. However, I have been following along on AT's site and have been inspired by the progress that so many have made. AT has many, many, many good ideas about how to organize your stuff, declutter, decorate, and otherwise make your house a home. So - I have decided to start my own private home cure and see if I can once and for all organize the madness that is my home.

Hopefully, 35 will soon find time to join us again. She has been very busy with her little one, working, and her own home challenge. She has made great strides in decluttering and organizing her home. I plan to bully her into sharing her progress on this blog. I AM the BIG sister after all!

Love, -40

Confetti Cakes Cookbook

I have been drooling over the beautiful Confetti Cakes and Confetti Cakes for Kids cookbooks by Elisa Strauss. Ms. Strauss runs an incredibly popular bakery in NYC called - you guessed it - Confetti Cakes. The cookbooks are full of stunning full-page pictures of cakes decorated like purses, shoes, monsters, trains, bouquets - pretty much anything you can imagine. And the cakes are wonderfully and artistically rendered, they are not tacky in any way.

The books each also feature a section on cookie decorating. Over the years, I have fought with many a sugar cookie dough. Except for one very lucky Christmas, the cookie dough has always kicked my ass. But the how to directions in these books made the cutting out and decorating of sugar cookies look so simple, I had to enter the ring for one more round. Stay tuned for the outcome...

Love, -40