Monday, January 25, 2010

Pamper Your Honey For Less Money

Valentine's Day will be here before you know it. For most of us, times have been tough and money is a little tight this year. What are some ways to show your significant other you care without using every last coin in your piggy bank?

Start the day out right with breakfast in bed. If you have a heart-shaped muffin pan, bake some muffins. If you have heart-shaped cookie cutters, you can use them to make pancake hearts. If not, you could draw syrup hearts on top. If your partner likes eggs, make heart-shaped eggs, or Toad-in-the-hole (cut hearts out of the middle of toasted bread, place on cookie sheet, and bake an egg inside). Put everything on a tray with tea or coffee, juice and a flower. Write a romantic message on the bathroom mirror with lipstick or tuck a note in your sweetie's pocket if she or he is going to work.

Spend the day together if possible. Take a hike, have a picnic, walk on the beach, build a snowman or have a snowball fight - whatever your climate allows. Later, watch a romantic movie, rented from Netflix or Redbox, or you could watch your wedding video.

Have a nice dinner at home, including some of your partner's favorite dishes. If you must go out, make it the day before or after. Restaurants always have a "special" (expensive) menu on this day. Instead of champagne with your meal, substitute Prosecco, a much less expensive but delicious Italian sparkling wine.

If you plan ahead, you can make a gift instead of purchasing one. A clever handmade card is much more thoughtful than a storebought card. Make some fortune cookies (recipes are available online) and write romantic fortunes to insert. Grow some flowers or herbs in a small pot. Fill a pretty jar with strips of paper, each listing something you like about your partner. Burn a CD full of romantic music. Make some handmade chocolates, or lip balm or candles. The web has a wealth of how-to information.

Cap off the evening with a massage or a bubble bath a deux. And then...well let's just say it doesn't cost anything and it lets you turn the furnace down a notch!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Organize Your Stash Without Lots of Cash

One of the most common New Year's Resolutions is to become more organized. I have a few cheap organization tips for different areas of your house that I'd like to share.


Use empty clean jars for storing grains, beans, pastas, etc. If you can see it, you'll use it. A small area on the jar can be painted with chalkboard paint, allowing you to write the date when the food will expire. This also works for leftovers in the refrigerator.

Stacked empty rectangular boxes, such as water cracker boxes, make good graduated platforms for displaying spices in your cupboard so that they can all be seen at the same time. The back level should be no more than three boxes high, or it will become wobbly. The next level would be two boxes high, the next one box high, and the final row of spices would be placed on the shelf itself. These platforms can be covered with contact paper to make them more attractive.

Cup hooks screwed into the ceiling of your cabinet provide more space for hanging mugs.

Cardboard box bottoms (or Tupperware with broken lids) make great dividers in your drawers so that the contents are all sorted and easy to find.

An old dish drainer makes a good holder for pan lids inside your cupboard.

Silverware can be sorted in mugs in your cupboard if you are lacking in drawer space.

Plastic shopping bags can be corralled in empty tissue boxes or baby wipe containers. I know we are all trying to use cloth bags, but these still seem to accumulate.

Extension cords can be coiled into empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls to keep them neat.


Shoe boxes make good under-bed storage, just write the contents neatly on the side. If you have a broken-down old dresser, the drawers can be re-purposed as under-bed storage. Attach casters to the bottom so that the drawer can be pulled out easily.

Large Ziploc bags can be vacuum sealed using your vacuum hose to compress bulky comforters, etc. for storage. Those heavy-duty plastic bags that new sheets and blankets come in work great for this purpose.

Jewelry can be neatly sorted in muffin tins or ice cube trays in drawers.

Again, box bottoms make good drawer dividers for socks, gloves and accessories.

Scrap fabric can be used to make drawstring bags to organize small items. These can be hung from hooks in the closet. Old v-neck t-shirts also make great bags to store shoes, purses, etc. in the closet. Just stitch the bottom closed and hang on a hanger. Other t-shirts can be used, but a wider opening must be cut.

Kids' Rooms:

A cubby-type organizer can be made by hot-gluing sturdy boxes together. Paint or cover with contact paper to match the room.

Small toys can be stored in milk jugs with the tops cut off, leaving the handle intact. Make sure the edges aren't sharp.

Baby wipe containers, deli containers, drawstring bags and large Ziploc bags also make great small-toy receptacles. If the container is not clear, include a label with a picture of what is inside eg. doll clothes, balls, dinosaurs, etc.

Office/Craft Room:

Chargers, power-cords, etc. can be stored in large Ziploc bags. Write what they go to on the outside to avoid confusion.

Magazine holders can be made from old cereal boxes, cut down slightly. Cover with scrapbook paper or contact paper to pretty them up.

Small office supplies can be stored in jars or muffin tins in a drawer or on the desktop. The tops of the jars can be covered with paint or pretty paper.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. I'm sure many of you have some tidy tips of your own. Do tell! Hopefully these hints have made it a little simpler and more fun to get your house in order!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Give Sickness The Cold Shoulder This Winter

If it seems longer than usual between blog posts the last couple of weeks, it's because I have been down for the count with a miserable cold. Lying at home, feeling like my head is being squeezed in a vice, I just can't think at all, let alone write something creative.

Why did I catch this cold? I'm convinced it's because I braved the crowds for a day of after-Christmas sale shopping, and I forgot to employ my secret anti-viral weapon. What is this secret weapon you may wonder? Saline nasal spray.

All last winter, despite being surrounded by snuffling, shuffling runny-eyed rhino virus victims, I avoided catching a single cold. I employ several germ-shunning strategies. First, I wash my hands frequently, after contact with public places, sick people and oft-touched surfaces, and always before eating. Second, I avoid touching my eyes or nose or mouth when my hands aren't clean. Third, I turn my head or when possible move quickly away from those uncovered sneezes that people sometimes let fly. I try to get enough rest, and eat right. But most importantly, I use saline nasal spray after I have been in big crowds, or small gatherings where someone is sick.

For whatever reason, when I got home from my post-Yule shopping, I forgot. Now I'm paying the price. I first read about saline nasal spray in an article a doctor wrote about how to avoid getting colds. Along with the usual advice, he mentioned that saline nasal spray can kill any germs that have made their way into your nasal cavity before they get further into the body, and it also keeps nasal membranes moisturized. Dry, cracked membranes allow germs to infiltrate more easily. It's an inexpensive, completely natural preventative measure, and for me it has always worked. I usually get several bottles for free every winter when the major drug stores offer it as a rebate item in December or January. Give it a try.

Now, what should you do if you have already succumbed to the cold bug? Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of hot herbal tea, have plenty of soup, and plan better next time! Inexpensive store-brand Benadryl should lessen your symptoms until it has run its course. I hope you are feeling better soon!