Category Archives: DIY

5 Easy Ways to be Environmentally Conscious for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day to everyone out there!

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would give you my top 5 easy ways to be environmentally conscious today and going forward.

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  1. Recycle at Home – I can’t say this one enough. We recycle everything we possibly can. I am weird about it, but if you’re not, start off small. Try to have your recycling bin contain more than your trash bin at the end of every week.
  2. Use refillable water bottle. This is easy with the kids since they tend to use sippy cups that you bring with you, but consider getting one for yourself too. If you need a recommendation, I love my CamelBak Stainless steel bottle. The stainless is awesome because it doesn’t hold flavors like plastic does and CamelBak warranties all their parts. I had the mouthpiece break a couple of years ago and they completely replaced it at no charge to me.
  3. Use reusable grocery bags. I am an Aldi shopper and so I pretty much have to do this, but its a great habit to pick up anyway.  You can find reusable grocery bags pretty much anywhere for inexpensive.
  4. Accept and give hand-me-downs. We have a solid rotation system down with friends and family for kids clothing. We only have to buy clothes for special occasions and wear hand me downs the rest of the time. I love this because not only is it environmentally conscious, it saves money. We also donate clothing when it no  longer fits.
  5. Garden. We love to have a small vegetable and herb garden in the summer. I love that it teaches the kiddos about the world and life cycles plus it provides great nutrition.

Looking for a fun Earth Day project to try with your littles? This one looks like a blast and way easy.

make a wish

Challenge COMPLETED: 5 Keys to Successfully Organize and Purge

40 bags in 40 days - Fresh Take 5

We made it!! We have reached the end of our 40 bags in 40 days challenge. It has been hard, easy, and time consuming all at the same time. I thought, for the final post, I would leave you with the 5 biggest biggest factors to successfully organize and purge your house that I learned while completing this challenge.

What’s the 40 bags in 40 days Challenge?

5 Keys to Successfully Organize and Purge Your House

1. Start Small

Make a list of all the areas in your house that are in need of organization and purging. Now take that list and divide each item into a few smaller areas.

The biggest challenge in cleaning, organizing, and purging your house is actually starting the task. Make it easier on yourself by making each project a 20 minute one instead of a 5 hour one. For instance, when I started this challenge I had trouble focusing it down to tasks and just identified the kitchen on my list. After struggling to really get started I realized I didn’t have time to organize and purge my kitchen as a whole. BUT, I did have time to clean out the spices and reorganize them. And then the next time I had 20 minutes, I hit the pots and pans storage. And so on.

2. Strategize Organization

Spend a couple of minutes coming up with some storage and organization ideas for your problem areas. Your best resources for this are friends and family or Pinterest. Check out my organization board here. Don’t be afraid to do something really different from how you are currently doing it. The biggest change I made was organizing my pantry by type of food (e.g. Mexican, Italian, Asian) as opposed to canned goods, boxed goods, etc. This has made making a grocery list so much easier since this is how most grocery stores are laid out. Also its a huge benefit for meal planning.

Once you have an idea for some tools that may help, stop by the dollar store or order them from Amazon.

3. Purge!

The first thing you should do is pull everything out of your identified area and get rid of anything unneeded, broken, or unused. This will be hard for some people (me!), but really try to pair it down to the essentials. Make sure you have multiple bags for the purge: donate, trash, and recycle.

4. Implement Your Organization

Add in the organization system that you found in step 2. Remember its ok to take breaks if it doesn’t look like it will be completed in your allotted time. Also, you may have to divide the task even further down into sub tasks.

5. Allow for Adjustment

Most organizational systems don’t work perfectly right off the bat, allow room for you to change your mind about how things will work.

Check out how my fellow bloggers finished up the challenge.


Rum & Limes

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Taking a couple key ingredients at a time from our previous post “How to Stock Your Home Bar“, we’ll explore the various drinks you can make and how much the quality of the ingredients really matters.

We all know the price difference between the top and bottom shelf at the liquor store, but how much does it really matter? Do you need to be a connoisseur to taste the difference? Can you tell in drinks with a lot of other ingredients?

For this week’s post, we chose two of my favorite ingredients: Rum & Limes. Based on the “How to Stock Your Home Bar” post, limes are an absolute staple of your home bar. Rum is as well, but choosing which rum to keep in stock may be a challenge as many drinks separate between white, gold, dark and aged rums.

We played around with three different rums throughout the drinks: A cheap white rum (Cruzan), a cheap gold rum (Bacardi), and a good blended aged dark rum (Zaya). There is a pretty large gap in quality there, as the Zaya is over double the price of the other two.

 Daiquiri

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The Daiquiri is the simplest combination of rum & lime. It’s really just rum (usually light/white rum), simple syrup, and lime juice (See the recipe here).

We tried this with both a cheap light/white rum (Cruzan) and a good dark rum (Zaya).

With the sweetness of the simple syrup and the tartness of the lime, it was tough to tell much of a difference between the two. The version with the better rum was noticeably better, but my recommendation here would be to stick with the traditional cheap white rum as the taste difference was not worth the price difference especially where the traditional expectation here is for the white rum.

Captain’s Blood

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The Captain’s Blood (See the recipe here) usually adds dark rum instead of light/white rum in addition to Angostura bitters. This added a nice complexity that allowed us to compare the cheap gold rum (Bacardi) to the more expensive dark/aged rum (Zaya).

We were a little surprised by the results. While the bitters added a nice complexity, we appreciated it more with the cheaper rum, probably because the cheaper rum lacked complexity in the first place. We actually wished we hadn’t added it with the better rum, as it masked some of the complexity and vanilla/caramel taste that was already there.

All in all, I’d recommend the expensive rum here, but would tune the other ingredients down to not take away from the rum. A perfectly valid  alternative is to use the cheaper rum and go nuts with the bitters!

Brookstone

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The Brookstone is a variation of the Captain’s Blood, found on the Perfect Drink app I’ve mentioned before.  the only difference is that it swaps simple syrup for maple syrup.

Based on our previous findings, we used only the Zaya on this one, and played with the Maple Syrup versus simple syrup.

The difference was subtle, but we noticed that the simple syrup brought out the lime flavor, while the maple syrup brought out the really nice vanilla/caramel flavor in the rum without imparting any noticeable maple flavor. This was well worth it. I’ll be keeping maple syrup on hand from now on, as it will be interesting to play with in the future where simple syrup is called for.

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 5 Update

Eeek! I am a day late on this. I’m sorry! It has been a crazy week of stomach bugs in our house, yuck.

This week I tackled the kitchen and our organization systems there for the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge. You can see where this all started here.

Spice Cabinet

We used a leftover piece of closet shelving, cut to size, to serve as a way to display spices in the cabinet. I love this organization system because it allow me to see and pick out the spice I want without emptying the entire cabinet. Plus it was really easy to do.

40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: Spice Rack Organization - Fresh Take 5
40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: Spice Rack Organization – Fresh Take 5

 

 

Pots and Pans Organization

I added an extra divider in my cabinet to hold my pans vertically so I can take the one I want, use it, wash it, and replace it without having to restack everything. Let’s be honest, the restacking never happens and things end up a jumbled mess so I am excited to have this change.

Vertical storage for pans
40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: Vertical Pan Organization – Fresh Take 5

 

 

Pots Organized
40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: Pot Organization – Fresh Take 5

The pots are still stacked for now. If you have a brilliant idea for this, I am open to hear it.

 

Here’s the finished product.

Pot and Pan organization
40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: Pots and Pans Organization – Fresh Take 5

 

Take a minute to check out all the great ideas happening over at the other bloggers taking the 40 bags in 40 Days challenge.


Easy Valentine’s Day DIY Play Dough

Easy Valentines Day DIY Play Dough

I’m fully ready to admit that I am not crafty at all, but I wanted to do something fun with my almost 3 year to get her excited about Valentine’s Day. I decided to go with a super easy Valentine’s Day DIY: play dough with red food coloring.

So while I can’t guarantee your toddler will be patient and helpful in the preparation of this “craft” (mine was not), I can guarantee they will be super excited about it and the recipe will be easy.

The Dry Ingredients

 

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The Wet Ingredients

 

Create hole in center of dry ingredients

Dont over mix

Flour surface

Play

Easy Valentines Day DIY Play Dough

Easy Valentine’s Day DIY Play Dough

  • 2 – 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cream of Tartar
  • 2 cups near boiling water
  • 3 Tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon food coloring
  • Extra flour for kneading
  1. Combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Combine wet ingredients.
  3. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly add wet ingredients while stirring.
  4. Do not over mix.
  5. Let cool 10 minutes.
  6. Flour your countertop and hands and add flour while kneading until you reach a dough-like consistency.
  7. PLAY!
  8. Store in fridge for up to 1 year.

 

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 4 Update

How is your 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge going? (Wondering what this is all about? Check out the kick off page here.) We keep plugging away over here and are starting to feel really good about the progress that is being made.

Here is what we did this week.

Pantry

Using Lindsay’s awesomely organized pantry for inspiration we hit our pantry hard. It’s amazing how many canned goods and other food items end up expiring because they just get pushed to the back and can’t  be seen.

We updated the organization to incorporate more bins and sorted the bins by food types. The shoe rack was used to hold cling wrap, tin foil, trash bags, and other small miscellaneous items.

Pantry Organization
The finished product
Pantry Organization 3
Use a shoe organizer to corral small items, plastic wraps, and trash bags
Pantry Organization 4
Incorporated bins and organized by “like” items and food types

 

Guest Bathroom

The guest bathroom was another area conquered by the 40 bags in 40 days challenge. We had a small table to hold some candles and extra toilet paper, but with two toddlers it was always being knocked over and tampered with so we knew we needed another solution.

We added a shelf above the toilet to hold those items and added some updated linens to make it look fresher.

Bathroom Organization
Added shelf above the toilet for organization and toilet paper storage

 

Bathroom Organization 2
Updated linens to freshen look

 

Check out how my fellow bloggers are keeping up on the challenge:

 


40 Bags In 40 Days: Week 3 Update

40 bags in 40 days - Fresh Take 5

This week was when the 40 bags in 40 days really became a challenge. After spending a week traveling, organization was low on the priority list compared to playing with adorable toddlers and laundry, so much laundry. We did manage to fill some bags, but nothing photo worthy.

Understanding my dilemma, my amazing, beautiful friend Lindsay volunteered to let me take some pictures of the awesome organization she has implemented into her house in the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, this with be some inspiration for all of us.

The Medicine Cabinet

Organized and labeled medicine and first aid keeps things accessible
Organized and labeled medicine and first aid keeps things accessible

The Kitchen Command Center

Organized kitchen command center - Fresh Take 5 #emergencycontacts
Chalkboard paint on the inside of the left cupboard door creates an emergency contact area perfect for babysitters

 

Right side of the command center features important birthdays
Right side of the command center features important birthdays

The Pantry

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Fun colors create visual appeal

 

Basket storage keeps everything in its place
Basket storage keeps everything in its place

Organized kitchen pantry - Fresh Take 5 #labeled bins

Labels on everything!

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Check out what the other 40 Bags in 40 Days bloggers have been up to:


How to Stock Your Home Bar – Updated

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**Update: After playing with the data in the spreadsheet a lot more, I’ve come up with a better list that excludes a lot of drinks that include a single ingredient you’d probably never actually buy.**

For a while now, I’ve been obsessed with making cocktails. The existence of the free Perfect Drink App for iOS hasn’t helped. It was developed by Brookstone to work with a scale they made, but I never bought the scale (you don’t need to if you have a decent kitchen scale). It does two really neat things:

  1. Lets you input what ingredients are in your liquor cabinet, and tells you what you can make.
  2. Has drink recipes complete with weights of each ingredient, so you can just place a shaker on the scale and pour your ingredients to weight.

Anyway, my main frustration has been this: What can I buy for my liquor stash that will allow me to make the greatest variety of drinks?

So, of course, I made an excel spreadsheet with most (not all) of the drinks in Perfect Drink (it’s a pretty complete recipe book if you ask me) and then sorted all the ingredients by how many times they were in any drink recipe.

So, here’s what to keep in your bar at a minimum (these are all the ingredients that were included in at least 4 drinks):


 Tier One (Used in 10 drinks or more)

Booze

  1. Gin
  2. Vodka
  3. Bourbon
  4. Triple Sec

Apertif

  1. Sweet Vermouth

Bitter

  1. Angostura Bitters

Juice

  1. Lime (Keep fresh limes)
  2. Lemon (Keep fresh lemons)
  3. Orange

Other

  1. Simple Syrup

 Tier Two (Used in more than 5 drinks)

Booze

  1. Light Rum
  2. Dark Rum
  3. Tequila Blanco

Apertif

  1. Dry Vermouth

Liqueur

  1. Amaretto Liqueur
  2. Coffee Liqueur

Other

  1. Cream

 Tier Three (Used in 4-5 drinks)

Booze

  1. Rye
  2. Absinthe

Juice

  1. Cranberry

Apertif

  1. Dubonnet

Liqueur

  1. Benedictine
  2. Peach Schnapps
  3. Galliano

Bitter

  1. Orange Bitters
  2. Campari

Other

  1. Club Soda
  2. Cola
  3. Egg White

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 2 Update

40 bags in 40 days - Fresh Take 5

The wife is traveling this week on a much-needed vacation, so I’ll take over the weekly 40 Bags post. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong, but whatever.

I haven’t been able to actually accomplish anything this week, so here are three organization tips I’ve come up with in the past:

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1 – Make a consistent system for backing up photos

Photos are the one thing I can’t stand to think of losing, but I’ve never been interested in managed cloud storage. When all the photos I took were on a single camera, this was easier to manage. Now, our photos and videos are usually scattered across the mobile devices and a camera. So, here’s what I do:

  • Once a month (put it on your calendar, or you’ll forget), gather all the devices you take photos or video on, and all their cords.
  • Copy all of the last month photos to a single folder labeled with the month. I like to use a yyyymmdd format so that they show up in order automatically. If you’re copying off an iPhone, don’t bother with iTunes, just pull the image files off like a external hard drive.
  • Delete the photos you just copied to your computer. You don’t have to do this if you like to keep a lot of photos on your phone, but it does help make it clear what you’ve backed up. My wife’s phone is always out of file space, so she usually doesn’t have a choice.
  • For extra safety, I bought two external hard drives and rotate them back and forth to work with the entire photo library on them. That way, if something happened to the house, I’d still have all our photos.

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2 – Use a Password Vault

I think that most people have agreed that using varied, somewhat complex, long passwords and changing them occasionally is pretty good practice. That’s basically impossible if you want to actually remember your passwords.

Originally I used a USB-stick password vault (Keepass). That worked fairly well, until I lost the USB stick.

I think by far the best answer is a browser-embedded password vault. I use LastPass. You install a plug-in to your browser, put in a single master password, and it keeps track of any new logins you use, and automatically populates login information when you got to log in.

If you’re on a public computer, you can just go to the LastPass website and access your vault to look up or copy your password.

download

3 – Use a cloud-based note system

I don’t know how many times a day I need a private place to put notes, pictures, reminders, links to webpages that I don’t need right now but probably will someday, etc.

This includes my favorite, taking pictures of labels or documents that’ll I’ll certainly misplace or forget about but will probably need later.

I’ve tried a few, but Evernote has been the easiest for me to use consistently. They offer a free PC/Mac based program, browser interface, or mobile app, and they all update seamlessly.

As with anything like this, the more you use it the more useful it becomes, so you really have to try to commit to it.


40 Bags In 40 Days: Week 1 Update

40 bags in 40 days - Fresh Take 5

Woah so we survived the first week and it wasn’t so bad. I am definitely realizing that I have tendencies to keep things thinking I will recycle or reuse them and that 40 Bags In 40 Days is really good for me.

This week I focused on those little cluttered areas around the house.

Living Room Toys

First I tackled the kids toys that are in the living room.

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Toys to store and rotate
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Yeah! A toy chest that actually closes!
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The toys that will be in this week’s or month’s rotation

Entry Way

Next up in my 40 Bags In 40 Days challenge, I revamped the garage entry area of my house.

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Photobombed by the baby trying on boots
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Clean bench for sitting down and putting on shoes
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Incorporated hat and mitten storage, a must in Minnesota. One basket for each family member.

I love the new hat and mitten storage I added. It is low enough that my little ones can put their own hats and mittens away after coming inside.

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Winter scarves displayed for Mama

I also added a pressure mounted curtain rod above my jacket hooks to hang scarves on. It’s a nice way to see them all and then actually use them.

Coffee Bar

Lastly, I tackled the coffee bar. This area has a tendency to start catching random odds and ends in order to keep them out of the reach of the kids.

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Coffee Bar/ Station
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Coffee Bar organized
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Great way to hide all those K-cups and boxes of Tea

The shelving system and organizing boxes have made all the difference in keeping this area usable, but also nice to look at.

Week 1 Thoughts

I did some high level cleaning out and organizing. Next up is to tackle the bigger projects. I intended to get to my office this week and didn’t even make it that far so that’s on the list for next week.

How did you do? Any suggestions?

See how my fellow bloggers are doing at the challenge.