How to Make Fresh Flowers Last Longer

It’s no secret I love fresh cut flowers– just check out my Instagram feed during spring and summer.  And since we’re officially in the midst of spring, although the temps don’t make it feel as such, I thought I’d share some tips on how to make fresh flowers last longer.

Whether it’s flowers you buy from the grocery store or florist or flowers you grow in your garden, you obviously want to get the most life out of them as possible.  So here are some things I do to keep my blooms from croaking too soon.

white roses

1.  Get flowers into water as soon as possible.
Flowers wilt quickly when without water.  So if you’re out running errands, get your flowers last.  If it’s a long drive back to your house from the store, wrap the bottom of the stems in damp paper towels or put them in a vase or bucket with water.

2. Keep leaves out of the water.
Leaves left on the bottom of the stems and placed in water start to rot, which causes the water to become contaminated.  Before you put flowers into the vase of water, cut off all the leaves that would be in the water.  If a leaf happens to break off and fall into the water while you’re arranging the flowers, scoop it out.  (See how I have just the stems in the water in the photo below?  You want that.)

pink peonies

3.  Cut stems with a sharp knife or garden shears.
Some people think scissors damage the stems, preventing them from taking in water so use a sharp knife or garden shears if possible.

4.  Cut the stems at an angle.
This helps more water get into the stem because you’re creating a bigger surface area.  It also helps when you put the blooms in a vase.  When you don’t cut the stem at an angle it will sit flush with the bottom of the vase, making it more difficult for water to get into the stem.  If you cut at an angle, only the tip will touch the bottom of the vase.

pink and yellow tulips

5.  Keep blooms out of direct sunlight.
Ever wonder why florists keep floral arrangements in coolers?  Because flowers last longer in cooler temps.

6.  Change the water daily.
Flowers love fresh water.  It takes less than a minute to walk the vase to the sink, grab the flowers, empty the old water, add new water, put the flowers back in the vase, and take it back to where you had it.

purple hyacinths

7.  Use a clean vase.
After my flowers finally die, I make sure to clean my vases out really well with soap and water or run them through the dishwasher to make sure all the microorganisms are dead and gone.

8.  Use flower food.
Now, I have to admit that I don’t use flower food all the time.  But florists highly recommend using this additive to provide proper nutrition to the flowers.  Ask for some extra packets of food when you buy your flowers– you’ll need them when changing the water daily.  You can also buy flower food (see here).

red roses

There you go– some easy to do tips to keep your fresh flowers lasting longer.

hydrangea

Never Accidentally Shrink Your Laundry Again + Free Printable

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to shrink laundry once in a while.  I would put the clothing in the washer, get busy doing something else, and when the washer would beep I would automatically put all the clothes in the drying, forgetting about my clothes that needed to be line dried or laid flat to dry.  I knew I had to do something when my favorite cardigan met its shrunken demise.  May it rest in peace.

laundry drying organizer

The first thing I did involved making a drying printable organizer to keep in my laundry binder.  I created two sections– line dry and lay flat.  Then, I listed my clothing items in the appropriate columns.  That way I’m not fumbling to find the tag every time I wash one of the items.

laundry organization binder

The printable has helped me organize how each piece of clothing should be dried.  But I needed something else to remind me when I would wash the line dry and lay flat items so I wouldn’t put these items in the dryer.

Enter the lingerie bag.

Whenever I wash a piece of clothing that requires special drying, I put it in a lingerie bag (less than $1 at most big box stores).  That way, when I take the clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer, I know the clothes in the lingerie bags need to be line dried or laid flat to dry.

This method also helps when I happen to throw some of my clothes in with Brad’s laundry (we’re weird and do our own laundry) and he takes the clothes from the washer and puts them in the dryer.  When I have clothes in the lingerie bags, he knows those get hung up to dry or to ask me if they need to be laid flat.

lingerie bag

I have about ten lingerie bags, which are needed when I’m doing multiple loads of laundry on the same day.  I hang them on a hook in our laundry room.  This method keeps them organized and allows them to air dry.

I cannot tell you how much this system has helped me.  Yeah, I had to spend a little money on the lingerie bags, but I’ve had a full return on my invest because I haven’t shrunk a piece of clothing since implementing this system.

I hope you find these tips helpful in my attempt to eliminate clothing shrinkage one cardigan at a time.  You can download the drying organizer here to help in your crusade.  Just click on the image to go to the download/print page.

laundry drying document

If you don’t have a laundry binder and don’t intend on making one, you can frame the laundry drying organizer, and write on the glass of the frame with a dry erase marker.

What do you think of this system? Do you think it would help you in the prevention of clothing shrinkage? Do you have a different system for organizing your clothing that requires special drying?

12 Organization Ideas

I don’t know about you, but the New Year always gets me hyped up to tackle organization projects.  It probably has something to do with the whole new year, new start thing.  Or maybe it’s because I have a new stockpile of gift cards from Christmas burning holes in my pockets so I’m feeling the urge to work on some house projects.

If you’re like me and feeling the organization itch, you’re in luck because I’ve rounded up 12 of my own organization ideas for you to try out in your home.

Refrigerator Organization Tips
GREAT refrigerator organization tips!

Hidden Kitchen Organizer
hidden kitchen organizer

Baking Sheet Organization
baking sheet organization

Junk Drawer Organization
junk drawer organization

Utensil Drawer Organization
kitchen utensil drawer
Spice Organization
organized spices

Spice Packet Organization
GREAT way to organize spice packets!

Organized Mani-Pedi Caddy
mani-pedi caddy

Greeting Card Organizer
greeting card organizer

Stocked and Organized Guest Bathroom Drawers
oranized guest bathroom drawers
Laundry Binder
laundry+organizer

Packing Tips & Tricks
packing tips and tricks

Happy organizing!

Quick and inexpensive organization projects!

Stalk away!

10 Ways to Save Money On Christmas Decor

If you know me well, you know I hate paying retail price for anything.  I’m one of those annoying people who will tell you how much I paid for something when you compliment me on it because I’m so proud of the price I paid for it.  Sorry, it’s a hereditary condition– I get it from my mother.

As with most things in my home, almost all of my Christmas decor was purchased during a sale or as a second-hand item.  So today I’m sharing 10 ways to save money on Christmas decor.

10 GREAT ways to save money on Christmas decor!

1. Black Friday Sales
Take advantage of Black Friday sales.  JoAnn Fabric is a great place to look.  Most of their Christmas decor is 50-60% off, plus they typically have 20-25% off coupons for Friday and Saturday.  I purchased the garland and bow for my tomato cage Christmas tree (which cost me only $14 to make) a couple years ago during JoAnn’s Black Friday sale.  This year I purchased a few new ornaments at Kohls.  They were 50% off, plus I had a 15% off coupon.  Not a Black Friday brick and mortar shopper?  Many store websites offer the same deals on their websites on Black Friday and you can typically get free shipping.

tomato+cage+christmas+tree+6

2. Shop Small Saturday Sales
Check out your local small businesses on Shop Small Saturday (following Thanksgiving), many offer discounts on certain Christmas merchandise.  The stores I went in this past Shop Small Saturday were offering 20-25% off Christmas decor.  I got a pretty amazing flocked wreath for $25, and I felt good spending my money in a local business.

3. Cyber Monday Sales
As with Black Friday, many stores offer Cyber Monday sales on their Christmas decor.  Be sure to search for additional store coupons to use.  Just do a Google search of the store’s name and “coupon code”.

4. Day After Christmas Sales
I highly recommend getting up early and checking out the sales on December 26th.  Many stores mark down Christmas decor to 50-70% off.  I’ve found some of my most favorite Christmas items during Day After Christmas sales.  Target is usually my first stop.  Back in 2007, I found my glass Christmas ornaments for $2.50 a box (10 ornaments per box) at Target’s day after Christmas sale.  If you’re wanting to change up the look of your Christmas tree and do new ornaments, this is the time to buy new ones.  This is also a great time to stock up on Christmas lights because you know some of the strands that worked this year magically won’t work next year.

jewel-tone-christmas-ornaments-1

5. Thrift Stores
Most thrift stores have holiday sections.  But since the selection changes so frequently, it’s best to hit up your favorite thrift stores often.  Don’t limit yourself to only the holiday section though.  Browse other sections and see what you can think up.  Check out the blanket section– you may be able to find a nice blanket or quilt that can be used as a tree skirt.  Hit up the kitchen section for glass containers and vases to fill with ornaments.

Last year, I found these great vintage stockings at a thrift store outlet.  I purchased the sweaters for my sweater presents at a thrift store, and the books were also thrift store purchases.

christmas-card-catalog

6. Yard & Garage Sales
I’ve seen plenty of Christmas decor for sale at yard and garage sales.  You may not have Christmas on the mind when you’re hitting up sales in the sweltering summer heat, but make a list of things you’d like to have for the upcoming Christmas season so you can keep your eyes peeled.  If you’re a hardcore garage/yard sale aficionado, ask your friends and family if there’s anything special they’re looking for.  I’m sure they would appreciate you looking and perhaps they’ll give you a finders fee tip.

7. Craigslist
I see all kinds of Christmas decor (indoor and outdoor) for sale on Craigslist.  From artificial trees to Christmas plates & serve ware to vintage ornaments, you’ll find just about anything.  I purchased 6 manzanita branches from a lady I found on Craigslist who used them for her wedding reception.  I planned to use them for our wedding but ultimately opted not to use them, so I sold all but one of them.  I use the one branch I kept (and sprayed painted white) for my silver and blue Christmas centerpiece.  While I didn’t purchase the branches with the intention of using them in my Christmas decor it worked out nicely, so keep your mind open when browsing CL.

silver-and-blue-centerpiece-1

Remember to meet in a public place, like a busy store, and take someone with you if you plan to meet with a Craigslist seller.  If the seller refuses to meet you inside a public location like I mentioned, move on.

8. Use Items You Already Own
I used to have a slight obsession with purchasing glass containers and vases.  I always use them in my Christmas decor.  My go-to way of using them is to put ornaments in them.  Have an old blanket or quilt?  Use it as a tree skirt, throw it over a chair, or in a basket.  In the photo of the card catalog above, I used a cake stand and cloche I already had for the pinecone display.  In the photo below, I used my great-grandma’s quilt and a blanket my great aunt knitted for Brad and me in a wire basket below our card catalog.

silver-and-blue-centerpiece

basket-of-blankets

9. Swap with Family and/or Friends
Tired of you Christmas decor?  Swap with a family member or friend!  It’s free and both of you get to enjoy new-to-you decor for a year or more.

10. Do-It-Yourself!
There are so many things you can make– wreaths, ornaments, trees, printables, and more!  There are tons of tutorials in blogland for you to follow.  There’s also an endless amount of free printables that you can print at home and slap in a frame– instant Christmas decor!

peppermint wreath 1

Here are some of my inexpensive Christmas decor tutorials and free printables:
tomato cage Christmas tree
peppermint monogram wreath
sweater presents
“joy” sign
ribbon Christmas card display
“eat drink and be merry” printable
“tis the season to be jolly” printable
“holly jolly” printables

Remember, you can have a beautifully decorated home for Christmastime without breaking the bank.

Stalk away!

How to Shred Chicken

Last week when I shared the 12 baking gadgets you should own, a KitchenAid mixer was at the top of the list.  I also mentioned how I love using the mixer for lots of things, like shredding chicken.  Some of you kept asking how I shred chicken with my KitchenAid mixer so today I’m showing you how.

I remember the days when I used to shred chicken with forks and it would take me 10-15 minutes.  I got to a point where I avoided recipes with shredded chicken because shredding it by hand was so daunting– until a friend told me about the KitchenAid mixer method.  Which takes seconds, SECONDS to shred five chicken breasts.

Without further ado, how to shred chicken with a KitchenAid mixer.

How to shred chicken in seconds with a KitchenAid mixer!

Cook your chicken breasts.  Put the chicken breasts in your KitchenAid mixer bowl.  Use the regular paddle attachment.

How to shred chicken with a KitchenAid mixer

Turn the mixer on.  I typically start with “stir” and amp it up to 3-4.

how to shred chicken

Let it mix until the chicken is shredded to the consistency you desire.

How to shred chicken with a KitchenAid mixer

And seconds later, you have shredded chicken.

If you want more control over the consistency of your chicken, only put two chicken breasts in at a time.  Shred the chicken.  Take it out.  And repeat until all of your chicken is shredded.

Be honest, who’s cooking up a recipe that involves shredded chicken tonight so they can try this out?

Stalk away!

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12 Baking Gadgets You Should Own

The other day my best friend called, wanting to know any tricks to making my pumpkin chocolate chip whoopie pies.  When I mentioned using a cookie scoop, and she was all “Huh, what’s that?” and I was all, “Uh, it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever, besides Channing Tatum.”

The above conversation led to today’s post topic– 12 baking gadgets you should own, according to yours truly.  And just so you know, this isn’t a promotional post– these are things I use religiously when I bake.  I’ll even include some of my own photos as proof.

12 Baking Gadgets You Should Own

1.  KitchenAid Stand Mixer
It’s basically the smartphone of kitchen appliances– I don’t know what I would do without it, and I don’t remember life without it.  Last Christmas I was baking cookies with my mom in her KitchenAid-stand-mixer-less kitchen, and I was moaning in pain from having to mix the dough with my delicate lady hands.  I love my mixer because it speeds up the prep process, it saves me from having to exert additional energy, and I can use the mixer for other things, like shredding chicken (omg– life changing).

I love my KitchenAid stand mixer so much it has its own spotlight.

kitchenaid stand mixer

2.  KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater
If you’re going to own a KitchenAid stand mixer, you need a Flex Edge Beater.  It’s the only attachment I use when making cookies and other doughy concoctions.  Oh, and this puppy lasts.  I’ve used it relentlessly for over 2 years and it still looks brand new.

easy peach cobblerpeach cobbler

3.  Cookie scoop
I don’t know where I’d be without my cookie scoop.  A cookie scoop helps keep the size of your cookies (and other scoopable treats) uniform.  It keeps your fingers from getting messy, too.  It also helps maintain shape which is important for things like whoopie pies.

making trufflesmalbec chocolate truffles

4.  Silicone spatulas
I own approximately 200 silicone spatulas (as you can see below).  I use them for baking and cooking (mostly when I make scrambled eggs).  Also, if I need to whip up a brownie mix I’ll use a silicone spatula versus a spoon because I can easily scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing.

kitchen utensil drawer

5.  Cooling racks
I couldn’t function without my cooling racks.  I don’t even waste my time with potholders when it comes to baked goods.  Cooling racks allow air to circulate around every side of your baking pan/sheet or baked good, allowing the item to cool much faster.  When it comes to cookies, I typically allow them to cool (and firm up) on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them directly to the cooling racks.

chocolate chip pumpkin cookiespumpkin chocolate chip cookies

6.  AirBake baking sheets and pans
I’ve declared my love of AirBake baking sheets and pans in the past, and I’m still madly in love with them.  Without getting all Bill Nye the Science Guy on you, they’re made of two sheets of aluminum with air space in between.  ”The air reduces the temperature of the metal that comes in contact with the food.  This ensures that the food is heated evenly all around.”  (I took that directly from the AirBake site because I’m too lazy to paraphrase.)  Basically, these baking sheets make it really difficult for you to burn something.  And if you happen to overcook something it won’t necessarily burn, it’ll just be really hard.  But I wouldn’t know anything about that because I’m the world’s best amateur baker.

how to organize cookie sheetsYes, I own 8 AirBake baking sheets.

7.  Parchment paper
I’ve also declared my love of parchment paper in the past.  I love parchment paper for multiple reasons.  There’s no need to wash my baking sheets after I bake with parchment paper because the baking sheets don’t get dirty.  There’s no need for cooking spray because baked goods won’t stick to parchment paper.  And parchment paper is reusable.

8.  Offset spatula
I’ve been using offset spatulas since I was 10 years old.  This dates back to the 4-H cake decorating days.  The offset spatula is essential when it comes to icing anything– cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc.  Offset spatulas come in various sizes, but I think the 9 inch offset spatula is the best beginner model.

9.  Cake decorating kit
You don’t need anything too fancy, but a basic cake decorating kit (like this one) is great to have on hand.  They’re perfect for beginners.  You could easily decorate a cake or get a little fancy with icing your cupcakes with only a little bit of practice.

10.  Quality measuring cups
Having measuring cups and spoons in your kitchen is a given.  But if you’re going to spend your money you might as well spend it on quality measuring cups (dry and liquid) and measuring spoons.  I love these liquid measuring cups because you can read the measurements from the side and above.

measuring cups lquid

11. Quality measuring spoons
Like above, quality measuring spoons are also a necessity.   I love these measuring spoons because the narrow ends are designed to fit most spice containers and the round ends are perfect for liquids.  They’re also magnetized, which helps when it comes to storing them.

measuring spoons

12.  Quality mixing bowls
I’ve had these OXO Good Grips mixing bowls for years.  I’m pretty sure I’ve used and washed the small blue bowl hundreds of times.  It’s the perfect size.  I love these bowls because of the nonslip bottoms.  When I’m forced to mix something by hand I don’t have to worry about the bowl slipping around the countertop.  I also love how they have spouts, making it easier to pour batter into a pan without making a huge mess.

mixing bowls

Well, there you have it, the 12 baking gadgets you should own.  Obviously there are more baking gadgets you can invest in, but I decided to keep it simple with my most favorite gadgets.

What 3 kitchen gadgets could you not live without?

Stalk away!

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