Category Archives: Home and Hospitality

Getting a Grip on the Groceries

This morning, I stood in the laundry room, staring at the shelves of food in the adjoining pantry.

My thoughts?

“My pantry is a mess.  I have no idea how long the leftovers have been sitting on the shelf in the kitchen fridge.  I cannot find anything in the side-by-side freezer without setting off a small (sometimes not-so-small) avalanche.  Don’t ask me to even begin to tell you what is in the garage refrigerator/freezer or the stand-alone freezer!”

Frustrated?  Oh, yeah, very much so.

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Being frustrated by anything is usually the first step to finding a fix for the problem.  So, in my frustration, I yanked everything out of the pantry, before even taking a photo to show you the jumping-off point.  My apologies that you didn’t get to see the mess – no, not really.  Among the normal amounts of the normal items that a normal family would have in a normal pantry, I discovered these bonus treasures:

  • 7 bags of marshmallows (mix of regular, mini, and colored/holiday – 1 bag of regular and 1 bag of mini unopened)
  • 3 bags of coconut (all opened)
  • 2 bags of lentils (both opened)
  • 2 bags of couscous (both opened)
  • 3 bags of rice (all opened)
  • 1 bag of beans I swore I had and could never find until I bought another bag (both bags unopened)
  • 5 bags of chocolate chips (1 unopened)
  • 2 bags of butterscotch chips (both opened)
  • 1 box of nine Samoas (opened, cellophane not closed)
  • 1 jar of baby food (I did not buy this)
  • 1 box of instant stuffing mix (I don’t remember buying this)
  • 4 boxes of cornstarch
  • 1 can of Spam (bought as part of a joke gift for a white elephant Christmas exchange at our home, and left here by the “winner”)
  • 2 canisters of Italian bread crumbs (both opened)
  • 1 packet of microwave popcorn (I didn’t buy this either)

{Confession:  I was secretly excited about the Samoas Girl Scout cookies until I saw the open cellophane wrapper.  There were still nine cookies in the box.  I have lived to tell you that all nine cookies were still good, very good, each and every one of them!  I am afraid to find out just how many chemical additives were added to keep them so well preserved…}

After wiping down all of the shelves (we have glass topping the wire racks to make cleaning easier and to keep the pantry items from tipping, falling through, or getting caught on the wire racks), I re-organized the pantry by grouping items that are used in the same meal preparation processes together as much as possible.

pantry organization

All of the dry items used for baking are together, all of the “other grains” are together: barley, oats, quinoa, rice, and so on.  For the ground grains, such as flours, cornmeal, sugars, I cleaned and re-used extra-large pickle jars.  For the larger “other grains”, I re-used one gallon sweet tea containers.  Some other staples, like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and others that I buy in bulk, are stored in smaller re-used containers to maintain freshness and ease of storage.

On another shelf are more baking/cooking items, such as oils and vinegars, pasta and noodles, nuts and chocolate chips, marshmallows and cake/cookie decorating supplies.  These are sorted into various boxes by group.  The boxes are re-used bulk Splenda boxes and mailing boxes covered in decorative contact paper.

On the bottom shelf are the ready-to-eat items, such as canned goods, cold cereal, candy, peanut butter, Nutella, drink mixes, chips and crackers.  Some of these are also sorted into boxes, while the canned goods are on a specially-designed rack, and the cereal boxes stand alone.

The top shelf is filled with kitchen gadgets, and the floor area holds another small rack that stores paper, plastic, and foil goods, and also my potatoes.  Also currently in the pantry are a tub of waffle cones (for an upcoming event), a folding highchair, and a large tub of birdseed.

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In just a few months, I will have a brand new kitchen with loads of cabinet storage, so my pantry will no longer be used for food storage.  But until then, I can hopefully avoid the miraculous re-appearance of seven bags of marshmallows.  We shall see…

(Stay tuned for the Refrigerator Re-Vamp and the Freezer Fight!)

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Trash to Treasure

Trash to Treasure

Call me Trashcan Tomi.

That moniker is one I earned decades ago.  I had a reputation for being able to make something out of someone else’s nothing.  I learned from my grandparents to:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Since money was not a close associate of mine for many years, this short but wise piece of advice helped me make the best of situations.  Frequently, I would find that items had been left on my front porch simply because neighbors knew that if I couldn’t use it or renew it, I would find someone who could.

Today, I am in a much better place financially and situationally, but I still do not like to see things go to waste.  Some of the stuff that people will throw away is sometimes unbelievable!  In my quest to make everything beautiful, I have discovered many treasures.  I am sharing with you some of my finds and how I have re-used or re-purposed them.

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I pulled this lovely little table off the curb, simply cleaned it up and put it straight to work as a bedside nightstand.

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This adorable highchair just needed some cleaning, the broken footrest removed, and the rails on the legs re-glued.  I didn’t bother to paint it because I loved the aged look.  Definitely not safe for use with a child as a highchair, but perfect for displaying a plant!

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Some scrubbing and a few nuts and bolts later, this easel is perfect for little ones to create art.

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These wicker baskets still had the liners!  I put the liners through the wash, and scrubbed the baskets and lids.  Perfect storage for my dozens and dozens of stuffed animals.

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Three for one in this vignette!  The diamond frame was someone’s remodeling waste.  This one was the only unbroken frame.  The vase was broken in half (you can see the glue line still since I have not yet figured out how I want to cover it) and in the trash cart at a store.  The two shelves are from one of those pressed wood computer desks, the kind that you buy in a box and scream at the faulty instructions as you assemble the pieces.  I disassembled the no-longer-needed desk, and used two of the shelves here after sanding, painting and gold-glazing them.  Some of the computer desk parts were made into a laundry folding table, another shelf, and the rest are still awaiting a creative touch.

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I found this bamboo table base alongside a deserted country road.  By adding a Donato’s table top from a store remodel, it makes a great game room table!

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This lovely and very heavy changing table is still awaiting a beauty treatment.  After sanding and painting, it will make a lovely addition to our guest room as combination TV stand and storage center.  It was not easy to drag that thing three blocks back to my home on trash day, but it was well worth the effort.

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Another piece awaiting transformation.  After emptying it of old papers and miscellaneous trash and scrubbing the spiderwebs and dirt away, this little chest of drawers went straight into the office to hold small supplies that tend to be scattered.  Its future holds being decoupaged with old maps and receiving new drawer pulls.

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Okay, I did buy the wicker vase at The Salvation Army Store for $2.  The bamboo sticks however were a curbside find.  I love the height and drama they add!  The bamboo also made its way into my master bathroom, up next.

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The bamboo sticks in the stones and salt arrangement just adds such a serene quality to the room.  The cabinet below is a favorite find.  When I pulled it from the trash, it was a country blue with a birdhouse theme painted on the front.  Cute, but definitely not my style.

bathroom cabinet transformation

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Two of my grandsons helped me paint it.  I then mod-podged the gold-patterned tissue paper to the panel on the door.  I removed one of the two shelves inside to accommodate a plunger and toilet brush, leaving the top shelf to hold extra toilet paper.  Practical, convenient, and beautiful!

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These furniture pieces are child-sized and were being thrown away by a childcare center.  They will be perfect after being reupholstered!  The rug on the floor is made from tattered towels cut into strips and sewn onto a not-so-tattered towel.  Comfy and completely washable.

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This last photo is composed of many rescued pieces.  The fort was discarded by a childcare center because a child’s parent complained when their little angel got a bruise from the wood.  The play ring was discarded due to some stitches coming out, which I easily repaired.  The two racks were curbside finds, one still with all of its sorting tubs!  I found the other tubs at Goodwill stores, but they can also be purchased separately from the racks online.  The large wicker basket holding toys (to the left) also cleaned up nicely after saving it from the trash.

I have many, many more finds that I may share in future posts, but I think this is enough for one time.  Maybe I am luckier than most when it comes to “finding” these kinds of treasures.  Maybe it is the aforementioned mantra, especially the “make-it-do” portion.  Maybe it comes from having nothing unless I was creative.

My purpose in sharing these photos is to hopefully educate and inspire people to look twice and look hard at what is being discarded, and to try making something beautiful.  If nothing else, maybe you will give me a call before trash collection day.  Happy hunting!

Lifegroup Love

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This also stands as my definition of my Lifegroup.  A Lifegroup is a small gathering of people that meet weekly for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.  I am involved with a wonderful group of fellow believers that I am happy to also call my friends.

       Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I can only imagine how strong the cord would be made of two dozen strands, like my Lifegroup family.

Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  I have experienced each of these extremes in my circle of friends.  I Corinthians 12:26 reads if one part suffers, every part with it suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We have celebrated marriages and births, and we have mourned deaths and divorce.  My Lifegroup has carried me through some low times, such as when my brother attempted suicide, an extended bout with unemployment, health issues, and depression, and through other hard times, such as my difficulties with college and wanting to give up.  They have not only encouraged me through these times, but they also let me know when I am screwing up without making me feel like a screw-up.  Proverbs 27:17 teaches that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  I know that I have received some excellent sharpening through sharing with my friends.

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples:

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”                                                                                                            Matthew 18:19-20

I know that I feel His Presence when I am in the presence of the loving and caring members of my beloved Lifegroup.

I would like to encourage each of us to do as the writer of Hebrews 13:1 prompts:  Keep on loving one another as brothers.  I am grateful for each and every one of my friends and my family.  Thank you for being my Lifegroup.

Bundle of Blessings

You probably need to read that title again.  “Bundle of Blessings”.

Did you notice?

As beautiful as a newborn baby is, there is something more beautiful.  A newborn mother is a beautiful bundle of blessings.

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Some parts of motherhood seem to flow easily into the being of every woman who is presented with a child to care for and raise.  The need to hold and comfort a child can be life-saving, as seen in this video.

Many parts are more difficult, such as healing hurts, calming chaos, and the perpetual picking-up of pocket-sized pieces.  There can be beauty in the bedlam, if one chooses to look.  Pop on over to Why Your Home Is Already Perfect for pointers.

I believe that a mother is the most beautiful creation in all the world.  I must admit, I have not always felt this way, especially when I was a young mother, struggling just to get by day after day.

Proverbs 31 describes the excellent woman, who includes motherhood as one of her many attributes.

Hymn to a Good Wife

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.  Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.  Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.  She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.  She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.  She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.  She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.  First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.  She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.  She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.  She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.  She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.  She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.  Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.  She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.  Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.  When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.  She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.  (The Message)

The mistake many mothers, myself included, is that of thinking that this woman does all of these things every day.  That would be impossible for me, especially considering that I don’t even know how to knit!  This is a lifetime of work, thoughtfulness, and care that encompasses this mother’s resume.

Remember verses 28-29:

Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”